OU DIII hockey club falls at nationals


The Division III Oakland University men’s hockey team finished its season last week in the ACHA national championship tournament, but failed to qualify for the semifinal.

The Golden Grizzlies certainly came close.

Group Stage

The ACHA national tournament, held in Coral Springs, Fla., began in the group stage with Oakland paired with Robert Morris, Miami of Florida, and Farmingdale State College (N.Y.). Had OU won the group phase, it would have advanced to the semifinal game against one of the three other group winners.

Oakland started off the tournament with a loss to Robert Morris. For much of the game, the score was 0-0 until OU’s Collin Elkins scored late in the second, but Robert Morris countered within 40 seconds.

OU regained the lead with 2:29 to go in the second and would hold it until Robert Morris scored with 1:12 left in the third. Unfortunately for OU, RMU moved on to win in overtime, 3-2, damaging Oakland’s chances of making it out of the group stage.

The next game matched Oakland against Miami, and Oakland would take the lead early in the game with a Brendan Higgins goal. Elkins added to that lead and the Grizzlies reached the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.

Both teams would score twice in the second, and the third period began with Oakland holding a 4-3 edge. Jon Graham and Elkins added two more goals in the third and Oakland held on to win, 6-5.

The final group match sent Oakland against Farmingdale. It was a game that the Grizzlies needed to win to have a chance to advance.

And the Grizzlies enjoyed a field day with the FSC goalies, racking up eight goals before Farmingdale finally scored late in the game. The finals was 9-3. OU senior Derek Sulpizio finished the game with a hat trick and Brendan Higgins netted two more goals. 

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the early loss to Robert Morris would be the difference between going home early and qualifying.

“We knew by our second game of the week that we were no longer playing for a national tournament,” Elkins said. “We were playing for personal reasons, the team, and school pride at that point.”

RMU would go on to beat both Farmingdale and Miami to qualify out of the group, just barely beating out Oakland.

 “We knew we were the best team there and we wanted to prove to the people still in the tournament that the loss to Robert Morris was a fluke. I think we did a great job portraying that to University of Miami and Farmingdale State,” Elkins said.

Looking for positives

There are some positives to come from this experience, said OU head coach Troy Barron.

Of the 27 players Oakland took to the national tournament, 25 had never played on that stage before.

“It was a great experience, we try to prepare them for this but there’s nothing like it,” Barron said.

He also credited the strong senior leadership of the team, praising them for “playing their hearts out.”

Looking ahead to next year, Barron said he will be back along with three or four new recruits and a boosted interest in the program that only going to nationals can provide.