|(above) Craig Roehl scored 53 goals and had 45 assists for the Pioneers|
From: The Detroit News
by David Goricki
Derek Roehl will get to experience something his father never did: Compete in the NCAA Tournament in hockey.
Roehl, a junior forward at Western Michigan, also has an added incentive.
He'll play against his father's team — Denver — in Saturday's Midwest Regional semifinal in Green Bay, Wis.
"Words can't describe how excited I am to be playing in the NCAA Tournament," Roehl said. "I've always dreamed of playing in it. It's a chance of a lifetime. We're going to make the most of it. There's no guarantees you'll make it back.
"My dad had the (national) record for shorthanded goals. I followed college hockey and wanted to follow in his footsteps. Now, we'll be playing against his old school. It's pretty exciting."
Roehl's father, Craig, had eight shorthanded goals in 1977-78, helping Denver win the WCHA title. Denver was placed on probation by the NCAA, preventing it from playing in the Tournament.
"I'm very proud of Derek," said Craig, coach of Little Caesars Midget Minor team the last 23 years. "He's worked hard to get this opportunity. It's going to be a neat experience.
"It was a tough thing when we didn't make it. Our probation ended a week after the NCAA Tournament … It was kind of hard not to participate. We felt we had the best team in the country. We still feel we could have beaten BU (Boston University) and (Jim) Craig that year."
But now, the focus turns to the Broncos, who have been the biggest story in hockey.
With a new coach — Jim Culhane was fired after an 8-20-8 season and replaced by Jeff Blashill — and low expectations — Western was picked to finish 10th in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association — the Broncos reached the Tournament for the first time since 1996.
Roehl has three goals, including two winners, and 12 points for the Broncos, who finished 19-12-10 and reached the CCHA championship game. He had a goal and an assist in Western's CCHA semifinal victory over Michigan last week at Joe Louis Arena.
"I grew up going to the Joe, watching college games, so it was amazing to beat Michigan," Roehl said. "Everyone has a lot of confidence going into the NCAA Tournament."
Said sophomore Mike Leone, who plays on the line with Roehl and junior Kyle O'Kane: "I've never been around a team that has worked so hard … The team's success has been unbelievable. Coach just said we're coming to the rink to get better every day."
Leone, who was playing Division III hockey at Adrian last year, has six goals and 14 points, and had a goal and an assist against Michigan.
So, as Western attempts to punch another ticket — the Frozen Four is in Saint Paul, Minn., on April 7 and 9 — the question in the Roehl family is simple:
Who will dad root for?
"I'll be cheering for Derek and the Broncos," said Craig, who still follows Denver's program.
"Blashill's done a great job. It's an incredible thing, what they've done in such a short amount of time. All the guys bought into the system. They've worked hard, played together and are very disciplined. They have had a chance to win almost every game."