OU club hockey hopes to get back on top of ACHA

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published January 20, 2017

Oakland University’s club hockey program knows what the view is like from the top.

Over the course of its history, Oakland has won three American Collegiate Hockey Association national championships, with two coming at the Division II level and one after making the switch to D-I.

Times have not been as good for the Golden Grizzlies lately, as they have failed to qualify for the ACHA national championships the last two years.

This season, at press time, Oakland was 5-15-1 overall and 2-8-0 in the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League.

Colin Ronayne is in his first season as Oakland’s head coach, but he still knows something about the program’s tradition. He was an assistant with the program the past two seasons and played from 2008 to 2011.

“We’ve got national championships under our belt,” Ronayne said. “The tradition is pretty big. (We’re) trying to get back to that level. … That drives me every day going to the rink. I (want to) get back to the top and bring OU back to where it was and even further.”

Ronayne has some veteran players who share his ambition.

“It is nice to see that they understand what it means to wear the sweater,” he said. “It may sound movie-like or corny, but it really is nice to hear those guys be as passionate about the program as I try to be as well.”

Although defenseman Gino Mini hasn’t reached the level of being a savvy veteran, as he is in just his freshman season, he would also like to be a part of helping lead Oakland to a new era of success.

One of the best places to start would be qualifying for the ACHA national championships. The top 20 ranked teams along with league champions qualify.

“We have 11 freshmen on the team, so I think the older guys we have now are showing us what it takes,” Mini said. “I’m excited to be a part of that. … We’re trying to get the program back on track and getting to that national tournament.”

Corey Hagood, who is the program’s assistant general manager, expressed confidence in Ronayne’s ability to help Oakland reclaim its place as a prominent program.

“Very confident in our new head coach and his assistants to get it back — 100 percent confident,” Hagood said.

Although Oakland has had its struggles, senior Ryan Rotondi didn’t cite a lack of talent as the issue.

“We have a skilled team,” said Rotondi, who, along with Doug Andrews and Michael MacKinnon, is an assistant to captain Frank Saputo. “If we just fix little things, we (can) compete with the top teams.”

While there is consensus to where Oakland would like to go as a program, the harder part is how to get there.

Ronayne has some ideas.

“I think the No. 1 thing is creating the right culture,” said Ronayne, who credited his staff and Hagood for their work with the program. “Within the ACHA, be a little more creative with how we recruit. … I think that’s what’s (going to) be the key to our success.”

While Ronayne understands that the record doesn’t reflect it, he described the state of the Oakland program as very healthy.

“We’re going in the right direction,” he said. “We just have to make sure we’re bringing in the right guys over the next couple seasons. … I think the outlook is bright, just as long as everybody comes to work every day.”

Golden Grizzlies on ice

Oakland University’s club hockey team is striving to re-establish its winning tradition.
The players who make up Oakland’s roster are listed, along with their hometown.
Those who are from the C & G Newspapers coverage area appear in bold.

• Ioan Florea, Bucharest, Romania
• Daniel Grohs, Clarkston
• Ryan Rotondi, Port Huron
• Michael MacKinnon, Troy
• Frank Saputo, Macomb Township
• Zack Tuchklaper, West Bloomfield

• Matteo Mazur, Washington Township
• James Odom, Saginaw
• Billy Kocher, Waterford
• Brendan Geerts, Macomb Township
• Gino Mini, Richmond
• Alex Holm, West Bloomfield
• Joe Pizzimenti, Washington Township
• Chandler Gillespie, Bloomfield Hills
• Josh Neumann, Commerce Township
• Mark Rogers, Shelby Township
• Benjamin Grudzien, White Lake
• Doug Andrews, Macomb Township
• Nicholas Borg, Canton
• Ian Dvorak, Rochester Hills
• Spencer Stark, Grand Blanc