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Friday, October 05, 2007

Wayne State '07-08 Season Preview

For the Wayne State Warriors, this is it.

After eight years of hockey, the program will cease to exist after the Green and Gold play out the 2007-2008 season.

The move was announced late last week and was a shocking blow to everyone in contact with the close-knit world of college hockey.

"From all the people we talked to, it was all financial," said WSU head coach Bill Wilkinson in an exclusive interview with Matt Mackinder on “The bombshell is quite a setback, but we still want to go out and have a good season — this is our last shot at it."

The final WSU team will look different this year as well with 11 seniors gone from the squad that finished 12-21-2 (8-10-2 College Hockey America) last year.

Key players that will return for the Warriors up front include senior and captain Mike Forgie along with fellow fourth year skaters Derek Bachynski, Tylor Michel, and Stavros Paskaris. Juniors Jon Grabarek and Derek Punches, as well as sophomore Jared Katz, will also be looked upon the put the puck in the net.

Junior Matt Krug and sophomores Jeff Caister and Ryan Bernardi are the only returning players with experience on the blue line, so there is a lot of room for rookies to make an impact.

Sophomore Brett Bothwell is a sure bet to be between the pipes for Wilkinson’s team as the season begins. Bothwell posted an 8-9-1 record in 18 games played as a freshman.

The team will also welcome 12 new members with four forwards, six defensemen and a pair of goaltenders added to the mix.

"I think this recruiting class gives our team not only a greater level of skill, but depth as well," said Wilkinson, who will begin his ninth season behind the Warrior bench. "We have talented players coming in at all three positions."

Joining the Warriors are forwards Tyler Ruel, Andrew Berecz and Jeremy Tejchma, defensemen Ryan Adams, Jordan Bonneville, Brock Meadows, Phil Partyka, Kyle Richardson and Eric Roman and goaltenders Mike Devoney and Kyle Funkenhauser.

These 12 signees will hope to fill the skates of departed seniors Jason Baclig, Jason Bloomingburg, Matt Boldt, Mark Cannon, Taylor Donohoe, Adam Drescher, Nate Higgins, Will Hooper, Dan Iliakis and Mark Nebus.

"I guess there are several bright spots,” continued Wilkinson in the USCHO article. “One, its good we got kicked in the teeth early so that these kids can look for schools to transfer to. Every game we play, these kids will essentially be playing for [opportunities] and they'll be in the limelight. But from all the guys I've talked to, not one has made it known to me that they want to jump ship.”

According to the official WSU press release on the school cutting men’s hockey, all current student-athlete scholarships will be honored provided they meet satisfactory progress standards under NCAA guidelines. Releases will be offered to those who wish to transfer to other schools next summer, where they will be eligible to participate immediately as the normal residency requirements of the NCAA are waived.

Wayne State will begin their ninth and final year with the Green and Gold intersquad game on Sunday and then host ACHA member Eastern Michigan on Monday. All home games will be played at the picturesque Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum.

Other highlights on the schedule include the team flying way, way out west for the Nye Frontier Classic hosted by Alaska-Anchorage on Oct. 12-13, the start of the CHA schedule at Robert Morris on Oct. 26-27, the Lake Superior State Lakers at the Coliseum for a pair of games on Nov. 9-10 to open the WSU home schedule and a battle with conference foe Niagara at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Jan. 9 as part of the College Hockey Faceoff.

For Warrior hockey fans you have a few chances, 14 to be exact, to catch a Wayne State game.

So I only have a little advice.

Get to the Coliseum with an extra layer of clothing on, cheer on the team, buy a Chuck-a-Puck, grab a beer and questionable hot dog and enjoy the history being made in the wrong way. Oh, and don’t forget to get your picture taken by the giant statue of a 15-foot-high bull behind the arena.

Remember fondly the first game with Gordie Howe dropping the puck and pigeons dive bombing from the ceiling.

Check out your GPS to see if it still has locations saved like Great Lakes Sports City in Fraser, the SportsPlex in Taylor, Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Joe Louis Arena and, of course, the Coliseum.

Tell stories of the glory years with Jason Durbin, Keith Stanich, Dusty Kingston, Tyler Kindle, David Guerrera, Marc St. Jean and so on.

Reflect with a smile on the anger, and sometimes downright jealously, of players and fans from Bemidji to Huntsville to Niagara as the newcomers in Green and Gold won back-to-back-to-back conference titles in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Reminisce about the NCAA Regional at Yost Ice Arena in 2003 where the team came so painfully close to shocking Colorado College.

And by all means please stop by and thank “Wilky," his assistants Chris Luongo and Frank Novock, trainers John Caloia and Mike Chan, equipment manager Jim “Soupy” Campbell, Dr. Karageanes, Mike Flynn, Jeff Evans, Jeff Weiss, Tom Gorman, Rob Fournier, Jason Clark, the game-day staff and everyone involved for all their hard work, dedication, and commitment and over the past eight seasons.

Hard to believe it, but this is it.

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