New season. New division. High hopes.
The Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey team kicks off their 2019-20 campaign, their first as an ACHA Division I program, on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 pm when they welcome the No. 13 Rebels of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to their home ice, AZ Ice Arcadia (38th Street and Thomas; building is behind the Sprint store). The Lopes welcome back head coach Daniel Roy for his fourth season at the helm as they aim to build upon a successful 2018-19 campaign, where they peaked as the No. 7 team in the West Region. Roy has coached the Lopes to two consecutive ACHA Division II West Regional tournaments, and sees no sign of slowing down, despite the jump in divisions.
“We are going to take this season as an opportunity to show what we’ve got, and to prove that we can play at this level,” said Roy. “We have strong potential to be a top program in Division I. It’s exciting to finally get going.”
The Lopes welcome back numerous starters from the 2018-19 team, as well as important newcomers who have already established themselves as difference makers for this year’s squad.
As a former goalie himself, Roy has made the backstop a primary focus of this team, and likes what he has seen from his two goaltenders so far.
“Goaltending will be strong,” explained Roy. “(Michael) Barabash will be a huge returner, and (Chad) Duran will be a great addition. Having two guys there that push each other to grow will be huge.”
Solid goaltending starts and ends with solid defense, and the Lopes are happy to bring back Sullivan Murphy and Travis Burrow to shore up the backline along with other impressive newcomers.
“Murphy has improved a ton in the off-season and we are very excited to see what he can do this year,” Roy expressed. “Travis is a solid returner who will get plenty of run. Collin Madrid is a surprise talent. We knew he was good when we brought him in, but he’s proving to be a guy we should be able to count on right away.”
With the Lopes holding it down on the back end, the offensive side of the ice should open up and allow for impressive scoring outputs. GCU looks to be more versatile and experienced on the offensive end than ever before.
“Declan Carter is even better than he was last year, which has been really exciting to see,” said Roy. “(Brett) Kramer is moving up to forward from defense, which will allow for him to use his skill set at a higher level. He has a lethal shot and excellent speed.”
They’ll have a chance to mentor two newcomers who may start immediately. “(Matt) Mezik has slid into the lineup nicely. He has looked real solid and is a veteran at this level,” said Roy. “Finally, (Tyler) Millar is a big shutdown center for us who should be solid on both sides of the puck and win us plenty of faceoffs.”
As the Lopes embark upon their first season as an ACHA Division I program, Roy and the Lopes have put together a schedule that will be sure to test them right out of the gate.
“Our first three games are against UNLV, who are ranked No. 13 in the country,” explained Roy. “They are really solid. Early in their season, they have already shown they can score. These will be big tests right away.”
As a first-year DI team, the Lopes get the opportunity to take on the reigning national champions, Minot State University, when they travel to North Dakota from Oct. 31-Nov. 2. GCU will also battle the Jimmies of the University of Jamestown while in the Peach Garden State.
“Minot and Jamestown are both solid programs,” said Roy. “Jamestown is a very well-coached team with a solid track record. Minot won the national tournament last year. It is an opportunity for us to make a big statement.”
Of course, the Lopes will have their share of games against in-state foes such as Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, and Roy – an ASU alumnus – has put extra emphasis on those rivalries.
“The expectation in the in-state rivalry is rising with our DI rank,” said Roy. “We have done well against the in-state teams in the past, but now is our opportunity to establish ourselves as the best in the state.”
Be sure to check out the entire 2019-20 GCU Men’s Ice Hockey schedule.
What to expect
When the puck drops Thursday, it will mark the official beginning as an ACHA Division I program. As for expectations for the season, Roy made things very clear.
“We will be competitive at this level,” said Roy. “Our players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before. I am looking forward to seeing this team play for a full 60 minutes, and I am excited for Lopes fans to see for themselves.”
General admission at the door is $8, GCU students and faculty get in free with a valid ID.
Interested in joining GCU Ice Hockey? Contact the coach for the men’s ice hockey team to learn more!