Golden Grizzly hockey: Two teams are better than one

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Golden Grizzly hockey: Two teams are better than one

Oakland's Division I hockey team played against Davenport on Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Onyx Rochester Ice Arena.

Oakland's Division I hockey team played against Davenport on Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Onyx Rochester Ice Arena.

IAN LEVINSON

Oakland's Division I hockey team played against Davenport on Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Onyx Rochester Ice Arena.

IAN LEVINSON

IAN LEVINSON

Oakland's Division I hockey team played against Davenport on Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Onyx Rochester Ice Arena.

Christian Miller, Staff Reporter

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One men’s hockey team is standard for most universities, but two? That’s the Oakland difference.

Boasting both Division I and Division III club teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, Oakland University’s men’s hockey program draws on traditions that have been accumulating for nearly 20 years.

Established in 1991, the ACHA is a chartered nonprofit corporation that is the national governing body of nonvarsity college ice hockey in the U.S. OU first joined the ACHA as a Division II team in 1999.

Having experienced several seasons as a Division II program, Oakland Golden Grizzlies Hockey set its sights on a championship title. The team was successful twice, winning the ACHA Division II national championships in 2004 and 2006.

With the titles under its belt, the team sought to move to the next tier.

This goal was accomplished in 2005, when the men’s team progressed to Division I status. In its Division I premiere, the team concluded the season with a 30-9-1 record.

Mirroring the accomplishments of previous seasons, the team earned its first ACHA Division I national championship in 2007.

In 2015, Oakland’s Division III Hockey Club team also contributed an ACHA Division III national championship win over Aquinas College.

Along with success in the ACHA, Golden Grizzlies Hockey’s Division I team has obtained consecutive accolades in the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League. In 2011, it appeared in the GLCHL playoff championships and followed this feat with a GLCHL regular season championship win in 2012.

Oakland’s Division I team, currently in its 18th season, has found a home at Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester, Michigan. With the site now secured, the program is looking to expand on its achievements.

Matthew Kendziuk, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Division I team, discussed some obstacles facing the present team.

“This season has been very unique,” Kendziuk said. “We have been dealing with adversity and injuries from early on in the season. This caused our first-year athletes to get more play time and improve their own abilities.”

Kendziuk, a former team member and 2013 OU alumni, also focused on his leadership role.

“I have pride in this institution and the opportunities it has given me,” he said. “I made the right choice coaching here. Understanding how to give back and help players balance school, family and hockey has been rewarding.”

Colin Ronayne, head coach, reiterated challenges facing the team.

“We’ve had a good roster, but we lost a lot of seniors last year,” he said. “We have a lot of young kids, freshmen, that have growing to do. Learning how to deal with all those personalities and being creative in the ways I teach them has been something to focus on.”

Ronayne continued by discussing the current season.

“We spent the first semester feeling each other out,” he said. “They had to get used to my style and I to theirs.”

He is focusing on creating a positive atmosphere.

“I think it’s very important to establish the right culture in the locker room,” he said. “We have to be good role models for them because it’s more than just hockey. Being one big family and not just about winning helps the players become more comfortable.”

The Division I team next hits the ice at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3 at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube to take on Eastern Michigan University. The game will be broadcast on www.oaklandhockey.org/.