By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
Under bright lights, a packed house and with a new beginning, GCU’s home opener came within minutes of a perfect night.
The Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey team embarked upon their first season as an ACHA Division 1 program when they welcomed the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to AZ Ice Arcadia Thursday evening. The Rebels, the No. 13 team in the country, stormed back from a 4-0 third period deficit to tie, and put the game away in overtime for a 5-4 victory.
UNLV came out of the gates hot, showing their speed and determination, but the Lopes’ defense was too much in the early going. The Rebels fired off a total of 11 shots on goal in the first period alone – three of which came in a one-minute span. However, GCU goalie Michael Barabash made three quick saves to allow the Lopes to get into their offense.
The game remained scoreless until GCU caught their first break of the night when a spearing penalty was called on UNLV’s Jake Saxe. The Lopes used the five-minute power play well as GCU’s Jeff Payne broke the scoreless tie on an assist from Brett Ruiz.
The Lopes built off of that with seven shots on goal in the final four minutes of the period, capped off by Collin Madrid sniping an unassisted goal off the goalie into the left side of the net in the final seconds after one period to give GCU a 2-0 edge.
GCU’s defense continued their strong play, stopping a Rebels’ power play in the early going in the second period. UNLV continued to pepper the GCU defense, but Barabash held firm with 19 second period saves.
Meanwhile, Lopes’ right wing Declan Carter added to the lead with a wrist shot from seven feet in front of the blue line with 10:30 left in the second period. Defenseman Sullivan Murphy added another to give the Lopes a seemingly commanding 4-0 edge heading to the second intermission.
After seeing the Lopes score four power-play goals, UNLV got on the board the opposite way minutes into the third period when Rebels’ sophomore Paxton Malone snuck behind the Lopes’ defense to bury a shorthanded goal.
Coincidental minor penalties soon after helped the Rebels use their speed in a 4-on-4 situation, spread out the Lopes’ defense and find a seam on the left side of the ice that Hunter Muzillo used to slide a wrist shot past Barabash. Not even 30 seconds later, the Rebels found the net once again – thanks to a Kane Toriumi slapshot – to cut the Lopes’ lead to one with 10:09 left. four minutes later, Malone connected on his second goal of the period to tie the game.
Then disaster happened.
After spending much of the game in power-play mode, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Carter in the final minute of regulation sent the Lopes to the five-minute sudden-death overtime period shorthanded. To add ‘injury to insult’, a pile-up by the Lopes’ net with seconds left in regulation sent Barabash to the bench with a leg injury. Already with the Lopes on their heels, the Rebels pounced quickly, scoring the decider just three minutes into the extra session to spoil the Lopes’ evening.
The Lopes get the weekend off before heading to Nevada next week as they take on the Rebels of UNLV once again in a two-game series on Oct. 4 and 5. They’ll next be home on Saturday, Oct 19 as they host Northern Arizona University at AZ Ice Arcadia (38th Street and Thomas; building is behind the Sprint store) at 7 pm. General admission at the door is $8, but GCU students and faculty get in free with a valid GCU ID.