by Jake Friedrich
ANN ARBOR, MI – On Saturday night, the Simon Fraser University Red Leafs hockey program entered Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to take on the University of Michigan Wolverines.
The Wolverines, a program that has graduated the likes of Vancouver Canucks Captain Quinn Hughes and Detroit Red Wings Captain Dylan Larkin in the past 10 years, were always going to be one of the biggest challenges for the Red Leafs coming into the 2023.24 season.
Goaltenders Kolby Matthews and Andrew Henderson combined for 40 saves, newly minted Captain Nick Wicks went 15-9 in the faceoff circle, and Walker Erickson scored the Red Leafs’ lone goal in front of a crowd of 5,521 Wolverines faithful.
Fielding a lineup with 9 NHL draftees, including Frank Nazar III (2022 13th overall, CHI), Rutger McGroarty (2022 14th overall, WPG), and Captain Jacob Truscott (2020 144th overall, VAN), the Wolverines did not hold back against SFU, defeating the Red Leafs 8-1 in their first game of the year.
“We took it on the chin no question,” said Head Coach Mark Coletta, “but we saw first hand what the standard is on and off the ice.”
Despite the loss, Coletta and the coaching staff saw the weekend as a learning experience for how to grow the program going forward, with aspirations of one day elevating the program to the NCAA Division 1 level and with current #1 ranked Boston University and #6 ranked Boston College on the college in just a few short months.
“We knew this was a big ask to play [Michigan], but how we learn and grow from this experience is the key moving forward.”
“Competing against a top 5 NCAA school is a huge milestone for our club,” said Director of Sales and Marketing and 2004-2008 SFU Hockey alumni Chris Munshaw, “our 250 hockey alumni helped pave the way for us to get to this stage and it motivates us to continue to elevate our team and compete against the best.”
The remainder of the 2023.24 SFU Red Leafs schedule includes 6 more NCAA Division 1 matchups moving forward, including next weekend’s matchup against the Colorado College Tigers, who received 13 votes in the Sept. 25th 2023 USCHO pre-season poll.
“We’re at a crossroads of trying to elevate our program to the next level,” said Director of Player Education and 2016-2019 SFU Hockey alumni Ryan Sandrin, “having the opportunity to play against opponents such as Michigan is valuable to furthering our understanding of what it takes both on and off the ice to succeed at that next level.”
“We learned a lot over the past weekend, and we’re excited to continue the momentum into Colorado.”