It was overtime, packed house, season on the line in the national championship game when Oakland sophomore forward T.J. Schaffler collected a pass and buried it past the Liberty University goaltender to bring a second ACHA D-II National Championship in three seasons to Oakland University.
That was last season, a season that saw OU play in the finals for the third straight year, a season where forward Will McMahon would garner an unprecedented third consecutive ACHA DII National Player of the Year award.
That was last season.
This season, OU has set the bar higher, aiming for loftier goals and stiffer competition.
"We will always look to improve, we will always set tougher goals, we will always aim higher," head coach Sean Hogan said at last season's team banquet as he made the announcement that Oakland will move to the Division I ranks of the ACHA.
With the new additions and experienced veterans, the Grizzlies should be ready to make some noise in 2006.
The coaching staff has made a significant upgrade with the addition of assistant coach Jeremy Bachusz. A former Compuware Ambassador, the Waterford native played five seasons of CCHA hockey for the Lake Superior State Lakers, serving as captain his final two seasons and led the team in scoring his junior and senior seasons. Bachusz was a highly-recruited athlete coming out of junior hockey based on his outstanding work ethic and will look to bring that same philosophy to Oakland University.
Oakland returns a strong group of forwards lead by Sterling Heights native McMahon and 96-point man Brent Cooper (Washington). Senior forwards Jordan Ingram (Troy) and J.P. Ferrari (Sterling Heights) have known only success at OU as they have played in the national final all three seasons at Oakland. Ingram is a speedy winger with a tremendous shot and Ferrari is a play-making centerman. Both are looking to cap impressive careers.
Schaeffler (Washington) returns as the lone junior forward after two solid seasons. Jeff Einheuser (Leonard) comes back to OU after being named Oakland's Rookie of the Year and John Parrish (Sterling Heights) looks to bring additional firepower up front.
Several newcomers round out the OU offensive front. Kyle DeMaggio (Rochester Hills) and Garrett Kondratek both bring their hard hitting games to OU via the Junior A ranks. DeMaggio spent time with the Newmarket Hurricanes of the Ontario Provincial League and Kondratek spent his junior days in the NAHL with Helena and Great Falls. Trent Mitchell (Davison) is a speedy, play-making center who comes to Oakland from the Green Mountain Glades of the EJHL.
Matt Burke (Shelby Township) and Scott Kalinowski (Detroit) both come highly regarded from their respective high schools. Burke also spent time in the Little Caesars AAA organization before putting in an impressive senior campaign at Utica High. Kalinowski is a big, fast forward who will contribute offensively in his first ACHA season. Shawn Rotundi (Port Huron) is a 6-foot-4 forward who brings impressive credentials to Oakland and will look to be a force his freshman campaign.
Defensively, Oakland should be as tough as any team in the ACHA. Five defensemen return to anchor the back line for the Grizzlies. Adam Chornoby (Farmington Hills) comes back for his senior season and is as solid as they come in the league. Chornoby will provide leadership on and off the ice. Scott Elder and Steve Schaeffler (Rochester) both bring steady games to the blueline and are two more that have known only success as a Grizzly. Jarett Samp (Troy) and Nick Ranck (Clarkston) both were impressive in their rookie seasons and will contribute on the blue line.
Three outstanding newcomers with NCAA experience will anchor the OU blue line. Trevor Mallon (Grosse Pointe Woods) comes to OU after playing NCAA D-I hockey for Niagara University and also spending time at D-III Plattsburgh State. Tim Michaels (Grand Blanc) spent last season in New York at Cortland State and Steve Piccoli (Highland) played last season at Finlandia University and also played juniors in the old CEHL with the Detroit Belle Tire Lightning. All three will be looked upon for leadership on and off the ice.
Two new goaltenders are with the Grizzlies as well as one returning netminder. Andrew Hansen (Oxford) comes back to OU after going 10-0 in his first season. Jim Sardelli (Rochester) comes to OU via the Little Caesars AAA organization and Santa Fe of the NAHL. Colin Chase (Grosse Pointe) arrives at Oakland from the Green Mountain Glades of the EJHL. All three will battle for the No. 1 spot between the pipes.