By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
Back in action after nearly two months off, the Lopes still have plenty of room for improvement.
The Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey team traveled to Las Vegas for a two-game set against nationally ranked University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Minot State University, dropping both legs of the series. The Lopes began the trip with a 7-2 loss to UNLV, and finished the next day with an 8-1 loss to MSU, which is ranked No. 3 in the nation at the moment. Though both games were against top-tier ACHA DI talent, Lopes Head Coach Daniel Roy was hoping for a little better outcome coming out of the holiday break.
“Things were definitely a little rusty,” said Roy. “We were a little sloppy in areas. That’s expected as we are just getting back into the swing of things.”
Friday: UNLV 7, GCU 2
The Lopes were welcomed into City National Arena by a team who they have grown quite familiar with in the 2019-20 season, having dropped the previous three games to the Skatin’ Rebels.
GCU came out of the gates sluggish – which has been the kiss of death all season long – allowing a goal just 29 seconds after the puck drop. UNLV would add two more goals in the first period before GCU got on the board.
“A simple way for us to improve is to not give up a goal in the first two minutes of the game,” said Roy. “We need to be the ones who score first.”
The Rebels continued their impressive offensive output, scoring three more goals in the second period and continuing to put the pressure on the Lopes’ defense.
“We had some early opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, and they took advantage of some powerplays in that second period,” said Roy.
Jeff Payne and Trey Greene – who scored in thethird period – accounted for the Lopes’ offense.
The Lopes stuck around one more night to take on the defending national champions Minot State Beavers, which tagged the Lopes with a 7-1 loss in North Dakota Nov. 2.
Despite the lopsided score Saturday, Roy saw improvement in his squad and was impressed with how they played against some of the country’s premier talent.
“We knew Saturday was going to be tough,” said Roy. “Though the score might not reflect it, it was definitely an improvement over the last time we played them.”
Just like Friday’s game, the Lopes dug themselves a hole early, surrendering a goal just 1:48 into the game.
“We got down early again, but it wasn’t necessarily indicative of how we played,” said Roy. “We caught a couple of tough breaks, and they were able to score some sloppy goals. Against a team like that, you cannot afford to not catch any breaks.”
The Lopes were on their heels all night long, allowing 68 shots on goal – 60 of which were saved by Lopes’ goalie Michael Barabash, a season-high.
“We went into Saturday expecting to see them getting 60 or more chances,” said Roy. “That’s just the type of team they are, but we have won games in the past where we get outshot, 60-20. You just have to grind it out and take advantage of your opportunities.”
Matt Mezik scored the lone goal for the Lopes in the second period, his fourth of the season.
H2: DII Lopes drop a pair to rival Sun Devils
On the Division II side, the Lopes took on crosstown rival Arizona State University for a two-game, home-and-home series. The Lopes entered the series 0-4 against the Sun Devils this season. Unfortunately, this time around was no different as the Lopes dropped both legs of the series, 4-2 and 5-2. The Lopes will have to wait for the 2020-21 season to get another crack at this rivalry.
The DII Lopes are back in action this weekend as they travel to Colorado for the Big Mountain Classic. GCU will take on the likes of Colorado State University, Boise State University, the University of Colorado and Weber State University for four games in four nights. Follow along on clubsports.gcu.edu for all of the latest on GCU Men’s Hockey.Interested in learning more or joining a Club Sport/GCU Men’s Ice Hockey? Follow us on Twitter or Instagram to get connected!