By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
“It was a good weekend of hockey, but extremely disappointing at the same time.”
Despite playing some of their best hockey of the season, the Grand Canyon University Division I Men’s Ice Hockey team left Tucson with a pair of losses to the No. 6-ranked Wildcats of the University of Arizona. Both games were within striking distance for the Lopes, even holding onto a three-goal lead early in the first period in Game 2, but it wasn’t enough. GCU fell, 6-3, on Thursday and 6-5 in overtime on Saturday.
Lopes’ Head Coach Daniel Roy was encouraged, yet a little downcast with how things played out.
“We were dedicated to our game plan and stuck with it really well,” said Roy. “Arizona just has the ability to flick the switch, and we had a tough time holding on.”
Despite allowing two goals and digging an early hole in the first period, Roy was satisfied with how the Lopes stuck to their game plan to begin the series.
“Thursday night’s game is the game we should have won,” said Roy. “It was a defensive-minded attack, which led to more chances and a better offensive attack.”
After the Wildcats scored another goal early in the second period to take a 3-0 lead, the Lopes fought their way back with goals from Trey Greene and Matthew Mezik to cut the lead to just one.
The Lopes couldn’t complete the comeback as Arizona scored two late goals to put the game out of hand. Arizona’s goalie, Nolan Bivolcic, made some key saves late in the game to allow the Wildcats to secure the victory.
“(Bivolcic) played extremely well,” said Roy. “It’s unfortunate to not pull off the win, but it shows that we have the ability to be a winning team in this league.”
Saturday: Arizona 6, GCU 5 (F/OT)
Saturday’s game in Tucson was an instant classic. Everything that hockey can bring to the table was presented on a silver platter. With over 100 shots on net, there was plenty of offensive action, with athletic goaltending to coincide.
Along with the constant action on the ice, the first period was an excellent time to be a Lopes’ fan as GCU jumped out to a 3-0 lead only nine minutes into the game. Matt Mezik, Kory Potach and Castor Mattos all found the net for the Lopes within a three-minute span.
“All of our lines have the ability to contribute on the scoresheet, and that is what was displayed on Saturday,” said Roy. “Our fourth line had just as many opportunities as our first. We certainly have depth in our scoring.”
Unfortunately for the Lopes, the other side of the ice is where the problems piled up on Saturday as they allowed 75 shots on goal. This lackluster defense allowed the Wildcats to inch their way back, eventually tying the game with just under four minutes remaining in the game.
“It all comes down to playing our game and executing,” said Roy. “Defense leads to offense, and we did not play much defense on Saturday.”
The bright spot of the Lopes’ defense on Saturday was junior goalie Chad Duran, who saw 75 shots on net and made 69 saves. Duran’s best save was on the final shot of regulation, sending the game to overtime.
“Both of our goalies played well this weekend,” said Roy. “Chad made a lot of big saves. We feel like we can win any game with him on net.”
The Wildcats put the game away two minutes into overtime when Bayley Marshall connected on a goal assisted by Matthew Hohl and Max Meyer.
DII Lopes sweep the IceJacks
The DII Lopes halted their 20-game losing streak with a pair of victories over the DIII IceJacks of Northern Arizona University this past weekend at AZ Ice Arcadia. The Lopes used the strength of 14 goals in the two games on their way to a 9-4 win on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday. The Lopes will finish up their season in Flagstaff when they take on the DII IceJacks on Feb. 7 and 8.
The DI Lopes are back in action this weekend in a home-and-home series against NAU DII in Flagstaff on Friday, then in their first home game of 2020 on Saturday at 7 pm at AZ Ice Arcadia. General admission at the door is $8, and GCU students and faculty get in free with a valid ID.
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