By Steve Kornacki
DEARBORN, Mich. – Brendan West got the hat trick and linemate Billy Brock tallied two goals with four assists Friday night (Sept. 24) in the University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team's season-opening 7-3 win over Grand Valley State.
The Wolverines' No. 1 line scored five times, much to the delight of a packed house at the homecoming game at the Ice Arena.
"I think the crowd, the atmosphere tonight was electric," said UM-Dearborn coach Chris Haltinner. "It was unbelievable. Hats off to our fans. That was surely amazing to see."
The Wolverines fed off their vocal fans from start to finish.
West scored just 42 seconds into the contest with assists going to Brock and linemate Levi Young. They also assisted on West's second goal at 17:08 of the second period, and Brock assisted on the third goal with 3:02 remaining to play.
"You can see West's talents through and through," Haltinner said of the 5-foot-8 left-handed shooter from Plymouth. "Every time that line's out there, it's something special."
Brock, a 6-foot-2 right-handed shooter from Brownstown, figured in all but one goal.
"He's a player," said Haltinner.
As good as Brock was, he could've had more goals than assists. He missed or was stopped on three excellent scoring opportunities before finally finding the back of the net twice.
However, he didn't let frustration get the better of him.
"That's a big maturity thing for him," said Haltinner, "and that's a thing that's really come on in his game. He's been a valuable asset for us."
The coach also was glad to see freshmen Dylan Defosse and Johnny Elias score their first goals.
"The unique thing is that it's just not that one line," said Haltinner. "It's all four lines. There were chances after chances from every group, and it's really exciting to see. It's hard to put together a lineup right now because our team is so deep."
He put Anthony Davis, who has been a linemate with Brock and West in the past, out with them again later in the game.
"Everyone worked real hard tonight," said Haltinner. "Some of these guys haven't played in two years because of COVID (shutdowns) and had to get some rust off. It was a big night to get the jitters out, right?"
However, the defense was superb and sophomore goalie Kayden Pickles (Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada) came up with big saves when they were required.
UM-Dearborn out-shot the Lakers, 41-11, putting a constant barrage on freshman goalie Matthew Peterson.
The blue line beasts made a big difference for the maize and blue.
Who caught Haltinner's eye in that regard?
"Josh Makarchuk," he said. "And, obviously, for a new guy, (Blake) Petterle was pretty solid back there. Those two guys were really good on 'D' for us."
Both of those defenders are freshmen, and that bodes well for their futures.
Haltinner was pleased with Pickles.
"He backed up Tommy Proudlock last year and didn't get much action," said Haltinner. "He's got some rust, and going from practice to a game is so much different. He had a couple flub-ups, but he had a couple really, really nice saves for us. That team put some pressure on him, and I was really pleased with his performance.
"He had a couple of point-blank stops in some scrambles out front, and overall is a good worker, a good goalie and he showed us some stuff tonight. We'll keep moving forward, and he'll get more comfortable as we go."
However, competition was fierce at the position in pre-season practices, and Haltinner said freshman Tanner Beals of Farmington will start Saturday night at Grand Valley.
The Lakers scored two goals on power plays, while the Wolverines had one. Both teams had five man-advantage opportunities.
"Hats off the Grand Valley," said Haltinner. "They came out and played physical, and they really pressed us. I wanted them to give us a good, hard-fought game, and they did. We've got to worry about tomorrow. That will not be easy."