Wayne State closed out its home portion of the regular season Friday night in style with a 3-0 shutout of Findlay. But the game itself was really a sidebar to the postgame activities.
In the school’s first “Senior Night,” the team’s dozen seniors who have been part of the program since its inaugural 1999-2000 season were honored along with their parents in a red-carpet ceremony following the game.
Wayne State’s four years have not gone without ups and downs. The Warriors won the College Hockey America tournament in 2001 and 2002, but have also called five rinks home ice. Their first season was played at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum, their next three at the Great Lakes Sports City in Fraser, Mich. WSU also played “home” games at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Taylor SportsPlex and the Compuware Sports Arena in Plymouth.
But through it all, Wayne State head coach Bill Wilkinson said the 12 graduating seniors will be hard-pressed to replace.
“They’re a great group of kids,” Wilkinson said. “I don’t think I will miss one any more than another because each one brought something special to the team. Some of them bypassed other schools to come here and start the program from scratch and they’ve done wonders on the ice and also in the classroom.”
Wilkinson also said that even though his team was victorious, it coasted through the game with little intensity.
“I think they had a lot on their minds emotionally,” said Wilkinson. “Their parents were here, it was their last home game, things like that. But tomorrow night in Findlay, it’s a whole new game and they won’t have those distractions.”
Senior Marc St. Jean and sophomores Billy Collins and Nathan Rosychuk scored to back senior goaltender David Guerrera’s 38-save effort. Jamie VandeSpyker stopped 18 shots for the Oilers.
“This was definitely a great win for us,” said freshman Derek MacKay. “It’s a great way to send off our seniors and I hope it gets us jacked up for the playoffs.”
“We won, but for sure it’s also a sad time and a time to reflect on the past,” said senior Dusty Kingston, the only Warrior to play in every game in school history. “It’s been a great four years, but you just have to move on.”
Warriors senior co-captain Jason Durbin, a captain all four years and the university’s first recruit back in 1999, was a bit choked up at the thought of not having the “boys” around next year.
“I think for some of us, we’ll continue to play hockey somewhere,” said Durbin. “But for others, we’ll graduate, get a job and start to get settled in. Then we’ll have to see where everyone ended up by way of some e-mails and phone calls and basically that will be it. But all of us have two rings and the bond with those rings I hope lasts a lifetime.”
WSU (17-16-2 overall, 10-7-2 CHA) will finish the season Saturday night at Findlay (10-19-4 overall, 3-12-4 CHA). Both teams then travel to Kearney, Nebraska, for the CHA Tournament Mar. 14-16 with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.