By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
The Grand Canyon University DI Men’s Ice Hockey team dropped both legs of their final two-game series of the home schedule this weekend to No. 18 Arizona State University at AZ Ice Arcadia. Opposing power plays crippled the Lopes in an 8-3 loss Friday, then two late Sun Devil goals resulted in an agonizing 5-4 overtime loss on Saturday.
The series was much anticipated for Lopes’ fans – not only because of the built-in rivalry between two teams located in the Valley, but because GCU was honoring their three seniors: Travis Burrow, Trey Greene and Brett Kramer.
“It has been easy to build this program as coaches because of the players,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Daniel Roy. “Those guys built a legacy that will help the program grow and build for years to come.”
Saturday: Arizona State 5, GCU 4 (OT)
Saturday’s Senior Night pregame ceremony seemed to infuse the Lopes with immediate momentum once the puck dropped. The Lopes began the game with a level of offensive energy that has been unmatched all season long, pouring in three goals in the first seven minutes of game play, and taking a 3-2 lead after one period.
“We were pretty beat up with injuries, but we really wanted to win,” said Roy. “Our energy and discipline were there from the beginning.”
Despite being outshot, 18-3, in a scoreless second period, the Lopes used their defense to maintain the lead.
“Our penalty kill was much better [Saturday],” said Roy. “Those two kills in the second period kept us in the game and gave us momentum.”
Unfortunately for the Lopes, ASU found their offensive rhythm early in the final period, tying things up just four minutes into the third. The second goal of the night for GCU’s Matt Mezik broke the tie, but ASU neutralized that with a goal of their own three minutes later to send the game to overtime.
GCU’s season-long struggles with overtime continued Saturday as ASU’s Clayton Lackey secured the victory just 39 seconds into the extra period. The Lopes are now 0-6 in overtime games this season.
Friday: Arizona State 8, GCU 3
Friday night versus the Sun Devils was the first matchup since Oct. 12 as the Lopes were aiming for their first victory against their crosstown rivals in the DI era.
ASU had other plans.
The Sun Devils came out of the gates strong with two first-period goals to establish a solid lead before GCU was able to answer halfway through the second period on a Zach Bennett goal. That was as close as the Lopes would get to catching ASU as the Sun Devils finished the second period with two unanswered goals, then ran away with it in the third period.
The story of the night was the Lopes’ inability to kill penalties. Arizona State took advantage of seven out of nine possible powerplays, proving to be nearly their entire offensive attack on the night.
“Any time you allow nine powerplay opportunities, you are going to be in trouble,” said Roy. “But allowing goals on 80% of powerplays is not going to get it done.”
Declan Carter and Kory Potach registered the Lopes’ other two goals on the night.
After a couple of weeks off, the Lopes head to Colorado to finish off their season against the University of Colorado and Colorado State University for a three-game set from Feb. 27-29. GCU is hoping to end their first season as an ACHA DI program on a high note.
“With two weekends off, we can get healthy and relax,” said Roy. “It’ll be nice for the guys to get away from the game and allow them to get hungry again. That way, we can go out and finish as strong as we can.”
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