By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
After struggling for most of the season, Lopes’ Head Coach Daniel Roy and the Grand Canyon University DI Men’s Ice Hockey team traveled to Colorado for their final series with high hopes and an opportunity to put the season in the rear view mirror.
“We saw an opportunity against some beatable teams, and hoped to move into next season on a high note,” said Roy.
The Lopes did just that, earning their fifth and final win of the season in Saturday’s finale against Colorado State University (CSU), 3-2. That salvaged a win after dropping the first two games of the trip – once to the University of Colorado in Boulder, 5-3, and one to CSU, 6-2.
Thursday: Colorado 5, GCU 3
Part of the Lopes’ struggles this year have come in the first games of road trips, showing little urgency and struggling to execute the game plan. Thursday’s game in Boulder was no different.
“We didn’t come out as hot as we should’ve,” said Roy. “We struggle with coming out a little flat and playing down to the level of our opponents.”
The sluggish start resulted in three unanswered goals for the Buffaloes before Declan Carter, the Lopes’ leading goal scorer, answered in the second period.
CU extended the lead to 5-1 before GCU’s Jeff Payne and Kory Potach rallied to score two quick goals in the final eight minutes of the game.
Friday: CSU 6, GCU 2
After a quick 65-mile bus trip up Interstate 25 to Fort Collins, the Lopes again came out of the gates a bit slow, but held their own defensively in a scoreless first period.
The Rams separated themselves in the second period, putting the Lopes on their heels with three unanswered power-play goals to open the frame.
“Penalty time killed us in Game 2,” said Roy. “It was a fairly winnable game, but we just couldn’t stay out of the box.”
Trey Greene and Luke Stephenson were able to break through for the Lopes, each pouring in a goal, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Saturday: GCU 3, CSU 2
The Lopes took what they learned from the two previous games and applied it on Saturday – a back-and-forth game where the Lopes jumped out to an 2-0 lead after one period, only to have CSU tie it at 2-2 in the second. That’s when Potach stepped up to be the hero, scoring off a Matt Mezik assist with 9:30 remaining for the game-winner.
“After the overtime losses and tight games this year, it was nice to get our final win like this,” said Roy. “Going into next year with some momentum, and giving our seniors something positive to end their career with is what made this win so special.”