By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
A win on the scoreboard, but far from a finished product.
The GCU DI Men’s Ice Hockey team departed from Flagstaff Friday night with a 5-3 victory over Northern Arizona University DII, their heads held high and confidence soaring leading into Saturday’s home game. Whether it was the DII status of the visiting team or the overconfidence of the Lopes, GCU came out on Saturday and suffered a devastating 5-1 loss to the IceJacks on their home ice of AZ Ice Arcadia, settling for a split of the weekend series.
GCU Head Coach Daniel Roy and the rest of the Lopes’ squad went into the weekend with heightened confidence but knew there was still 120 minutes of hockey to be played.
“NAU is a DII team but they always play us tough,” said Roy. “They want to show that they are just as good – if not better.”
Northern Arizona struck first – less than a minute into the game – when Rayce Miller buried a shot on assists from Nick Ligocki and Kellen Ireland to take a quick 1-0 lead.
The early goal allowed for the Lopes to settle down and get back into their defensive rhythm – so much so that they didn’t allow another IceJacks’ goal until the final period.
“When we stick to what is working, we will always be competitive,” said Roy about his improving defense. “Defense leads to offense.”
The Lopes secured their first goals in the second period – all three of which came in the first half of the period, thanks to Sullivan Murphy (2), Declan Carter (8) and Preston Larson (3).
After the IceJacks responded with two third-period goals to tie the game, Lopes’ Junior Jeff Payne struck for what would be the game-winner goal with 12:10 remaining. Drew Cronin capped off the win with an empty-net goal, his second of the season, to send the Lopes home with the victory.
Saturday: NAU 5, GCU 1
Saturday’s fourth and final matchup of the season against the IceJacks was the Lopes’ first home game since Oct. 26, adding even more excitement to an already anticipated game.
Despite losing the previous three, the IceJacks came out of the gates hot as Ian Acuna and Jakob Nelson scored first-period goals to give the IceJacks a 2-0 lead – one they would never surrender.
The Lopes allowed NAU to set the tempo on their offensive side of the ice in the second period as well, with Ligocki and Nelson connecting on two more goals to build an insurmountable 4-0 margin.
IceJacks’ junior goalie Christian Ross rebounded nicely from the Friday loss, allowing just one Lopes’ goal – a wrist shot by Carter in the third period – on 35 shots.
The DI Lopes finish off the home side of their schedule this weekend as they take on crosstown rival Arizona State University for a two-game series at AZ Ice Arcadia. The Lopes will honor their three seniors (Trey Greene, Brett Kramer and Travis Burrow) during Senior Weekend with Kachina night on Friday, Feb. 7 and Senior Night on Saturday, Feb. 8. Festivities are set to begin 30 minutes prior to puck drop at 7 pm. General admission at the door is $8, and GCU students and faculty get in free with a valid ID.
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