Checking in on Wayne State’s new ACHA team

By Matt Mackinder - 

After Wayne State University’s men’s Division I team folded in 2008 and its women’s team in 2011, many wondered when hockey would once again be part of the school’s extra-curricular activities.

With the addition of club hockey at the ACHA Division III level, men’s hockey returned to the ice this season under coach Frank DiCristofaro, a one-time member of the WSU men’s D-I team during its early years.

DiCristofaro spent the summer recruiting players and marketing the team and, thus far, has been pleased with the results on and off the ice. Going into this weekend, the Warriors are 5-4-0-2.

“The season has been going well,” said DiCristofaro, who has coaching experience at the high school level with St. Clair Shores Unified. “We have had some pleasant surprises and have also learned some lessons about what it takes to win at this level.”

And while DiCristofaro said it’s hard to single out certain players for what they’ve been able to accomplish so far, he did say forward Bill Coole has performed well, as have defensemen Rob Adam and Stefen DesJardins.

“We have had many players take several roles, but I think there are always going to be those key roles that certain players fall into,” DiCristofaro said. “I think that Bill (Coole) has fit the bill nicely as the type of everyday player we want.  He works hard at every aspect of his game and two weeks ago against Notre Dame, he had with four goals on Saturday and several key assists on Sunday.

“As a staff, we have also been pleased with our play on the back end.  Rob (Adam) and Stefen (DesJardins) have been stalwarts for our defense and are consistently plus players on the ice. One of our biggest strengths right now would be our goaltending and defense.  We have three very capable goaltenders – Jacob Buscemi, Max Cookinham and Trevor Sattelmeier – and a defensive core that consistently limits offensive chances for our opponents.”

Consistency is an aspect DiCristofaro is working to get up to speed.

“At this point, we need to work on consistency with the power play,” he said. “We have had to do some shuffling to get some flow, so we will see where it takes us.”

Away from the City Sports Center, the Wayne State campus has been on board with the Warriors, a program that will make the jump to ACHA Division I next season.

“Everyone has been great,” said DiCristofaro. “We get great support from administration as we are attempting to build a solid fan base. We had a breast cancer fundraiser game in October that was very successful with the student body and are planning a teddy bear toss game around Christmastime to benefit select children’s foundations. We are very thankful for the support to this point.”

That said, there are still multiple challenges ahead to keep the hockey program sustainable and viable, but in DiCristofaro’s mind, the hard work is already in the past.

“One of the biggest challenges in starting this program was completing the comprehensive risk management steps that were provided by the university,” explained DiCristofaro. “However, once a framework is in place, all it takes is year-to-year tweaking. I think that sustainability of this program will always be a goal.  Right now, we are very optimistic, especially since we were recently approved to play ACHA D-I starting next season.”

Needless to say, there are many positive vibes in Hockeytown, with or without the Red Wings, that give WSU reason to believe in the future of the ACHA program.

“I think the future is very bright,” DiCristofaro said. “I have already had several contacts from different junior teams about potential players. I think where we may have an advantage is that we are one of the most affordable schools in the Midwest with over 370 degree programs.

“If you couple that with a quality hockey product that we are putting on the ice, it’s a recipe for success, in my opinion.”

WSU is next on home ice Nov. 17 against Oakland University at 4 p.m.