By Steve Kornacki
DEARBORN, Mich. – The University of Michigan-Dearborn women's hockey team defied the odds in posting a 19-2 record in its first season of competition in 2019-20.
After losing last season to the COVID-19 shutdown, the Wolverines are back and taking their game up a notch, moving from ACHA Division 2 to Division 1.
"Starting at Division 2 was one of the best things we could've done," said Carrie Sirola, one of three assistant coaches running the team until a head coach is named. "It allowed us to have a good record and a good first season.
"My concerns are that it's a big jump to make in one year – especially because we didn't play last year. But the good news is we recruited two years' worth of players. So, we have 13 or 14 new players. It's just allowed us to mesh everyone together and make the jump to D1 at the same time."
UM-Dearborn plays an intrasquad scrimmage at the Ice Arena at 3 p.m. Friday (September 24) as part of the homecoming day celebration.
Claudia Maguire, a high-scoring forward from Ann Arbor who played on the HoneyBaked Hockey Club while coming up in the ranks, is an offensive force.
"She's one of our strongest forwards," said Sirola. "We have at least three or four pretty strong forwards. But she was our leading scorer and also our leading penalty person, I believe. She will laugh about that."
Maguire, who wears No. 13, plays with fire.
Senior center Brooke Spiegel, from Riverview and Livonia Ladywood High, has been named captain. She played for Tim Ames, the head coach of that first Wolverines team two years ago.
"She's another one of our leading goal-scorers and point-persons," said Sirola. "She's kind of more of a passer, but can shoot, too. Brooke's been with the program since day one, and so she's been instrumental in us getting it off the ground.
"She was already in school here when they started talking about it, and her older brother (Andrew) played here for the men's team a few years ago. Brooke's good at leading the team as far as keeping the team organized and together with team bonding events."
The Wolverines will play two 7 p.m. home exhibition games with Victory Honda (Oct. 2) and Belle Tire (Oct. 7) before opening the regular season at home with the University of Michigan club team from Ann Arbor (Oct. 9, 7 p.m.).
UM-Dearborn then takes to the road Oct. 14 at Adrian's Arrington Ice Arena and Oct. 17 at Michigan State's Munn Arena.
"I think we've got a good group of new girls coming in," said Sirola. "There's several that are very talented."
Cassidy Waugh, a freshman forward from Douglas, New Brunswick, Canada, is in that group.
"We see the improvement we had from the players we had from year one to now," said Sirola, "and in two years they have improved so much. We didn't practice or play at all last year, but some of the girls played on local teams. Some were still eligible to play 19U.
"The girls actually started skating on their own in late July and early August without us coaches."
And since coming together at the Ice Arena, Sirola couldn't be happier with the development she's seen as the program prepares to take a big step forward.