Chemistry and Competitiveness: Signs of What’s to Come
By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
“We are almost there. We showed that we can compete with the top teams in the west.”
What began as a rude awakening to American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 1 came together and redefined what success looked like to the Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey them in 2019-20. Lopes’ Head Coach Daniel Roy and the rest of the squad were encouraged by their team chemistry and resiliency in a season of earning their stripes at the ACHA’s highest level.
“Experience is what’s going to get us to where we want to be,” said Roy. “We are excited for our returning players to teach our new guys what they learned from this year.”
The Lopes did have some standout moments on the ice, most notably their final game of the season in Fort Collins, Colorado. In what was, at times, a grueling season, the Lopes peaked at the right time for an impressive 3-2 victory over Colorado State University.
“That [game] was so important,” said Roy. “It helped to somewhat erase the struggles and growing pains that we battled throughout our first season of D1 competition.”
Though the win-loss record does not stand out to the common fan, the Lopes were much more competitive than some might think. GCU forced overtime six separate times – but finishing the job proved elusive.
“The fact that we would have six games go into overtime and to lose all six of them was certainly unexpected – especially when five of those games were against teams that had qualified for the national tournament,” said Roy. “I would have expected that we had a team that would have at least pulled one or two of those out as wins.”
Despite the narrow losses, the team remained as close as they have ever been.
“I think our team culture was the strongest that it has been in all of our four years,” said Roy. “The guys showed a lot of support for each other and were all great teammates.”
That team culture allowed for new players to the program – such as Williston State College transfer Matt Mezik – to get acclimated quickly and solidify themselves as team leaders on the ice.
“Matt was our surprise player this season,” said Roy. “He played every game with the same energy, and it was because of that we decided to make him an assistant captain at the semester break.”
Along with Mezik, the Lopes’ top two scorers, Declan Carter and Sullivan Murphy, as well as their top two goaltenders, Michael Barabash and Chad Duran, are slated to return next season as GCU looks to continue to build upon an already solid foundation.
“We are heading in the right direction, and we are going to be a very strong team next season,” said Roy. “We are almost there.”
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