By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
“I was hoping to see more consistency.”
Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy and the Grand Canyon University DI Ice Hockey team saw a wehekend in Utah full of ups and downs. The lowlight? A surprising nine-goal loss on Thursday. The highlight? A 10-goal game on Friday night.
The Lopes traveled to Utah for three games in three nights against Utah State University on Thursday and the University of Utah on Friday and Saturday. After dropping a 9-0 decision to USU Thursday, the Lopes rebounded nicely to split with the Utes, winning, 10-7, on Friday before dropping the series finale, 2-1, in overtime on Saturday.
Thursday: Utah State 9, GCU 0
With two weeks of practice under their belt to prepare for Thursday’s game, the Lopes knew they had to shake off the rust quickly against a formidable Aggies team.
Unfortunately for the Lopes, the rust showed its colors right away as Utah State scored early and often.
“We started out really rough,” said Roy. “We expected to play Utah State tough, but it didn’t happen.”
Though the Lopes trailed most of the game, that did not stop their aggressiveness on the offensive end. The Lopes outshot the Aggies, 44-39, on the night, but was unable to find the back of the net. Utah State’s Ethan Wiese showed zero chinks in his armor, saving all 44 of GCU’s shots on goal for a shutout.
The Aggies sported plenty of balance as their nine goals were scored by eight different players. Keegan O’Brien led Utah State with two goals on the night.
Friday: GCU 10, Utah 7
Friday night’s game was a completely different story. After the net looking like the size of a peanut on Thursday, it grew to the size of the ocean against the Utes.
However, Friday’s game started out just the way Utah anticipated when the Utes’ Wyatt Light scored six minutes into the game, giving the Utes the lead and forcing the Lopes to play from behind yet again.
“It almost looked like there was going to be a repeat of Thursday’s game,” said Roy. “Luckily, we got a few goals to go our way and got on a roll offensively.”
The Lopes fought back admirably in the first period, scoring their first two goals of the trip off the stick of Trey Greene for his third and fourth goals of the season. Utah battled back to add two more of their own to head to the first intermission with a 3-2 lead.
A new sense of urgency helped GCU score three unanswered goals in the first eight minutes of play in the second period to take a 5-3 lead – courtesy of Joseph Aguirre, Declan Carter and Greene’s third of the night. Once again, the Utes carried the momentum into the break, closing out the second period with two goals of their own to tie the game.
48 seconds into the final period of play, Greene snuck a puck by Utah goalie Landon Anderson for his fourth goal of the game (a career-high and the highest single-game goal total by a Lopes’ player all season long) to give the Lopes a 6-5 lead.
After a goal by Utah to tie it up five minutes later, the Lopes took control with four goals in a seven-minute span to take their first-ever win as a DI team over a fellow Division I squad.
“It was back and forth all game long,” said Roy. “I am proud of the guys for pulling away in the final period. Things really came together.”
The 10 goals by GCU was not only a season-high, but also the most they have scored in a game since a 10-3 victory Dec. 2, 2018 against Weber State University.
Saturday: Utah 2, GCU 1 (F/OT)
Despite the minimal rest during the trip, the Lopes played their most physical game of the weekend Saturday.
“We were much more aggressive and quicker to a lot of pucks,” Roy said. “Even the energy on the bench was better. We were much more focused on Saturday.”
Both teams came out with a much cleaner defensive approach, allowing for the first 33 minutes of the game to remain scoreless.
“We played much better in front of our net,” said Roy. “We weren’t spending as much time in the defensive zone, and we controlled the puck much better, all-around a great defensive effort.”
The Utes struck first with 6:47 remaining in the second period as Dalton Hunter connected on his first goal of the season. GCU answered back just before the horn sounded for the second intermission – thanks to Declan Carter’s second goal of the road trip (and seventh of the season).
After more impressive defense and a scoreless third period, the Lopes found themselves heading to overtime for the fourth time this season.
It took just 38 seconds to keep the Lopes winless in overtime games this year as the Utes’ Che Landikusic snuck a goal by GCU’s Chad Duran in the first minute of the extra session to secure the victory.
“We had a few tries to finish things off, but overtime games haven’t gone our way this year,” said Roy. “We had a lot of small victories, but as a whole, we didn’t get it done.”
DII Lopes Drop a Pair at Home
On the Division II side, the Lopes sought revenge as they hosted a weekend series against the University of Texas-El Paso at AZ Ice Arcadia. After dropping a pair earlier this season to the Miners in Texas, the Lopes weren’t able to return the favor, falling, 8-2, Saturday before dropping a 7-2 decision Sunday afternoon.
The DII Lopes will take on crosstown rival Arizona State University on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 5 and 6 in a home-and-home series with the Lopes hosting Friday night’s contest. The puck drops at 7:30 pm on the 5th and 7 pm at AZ Ice Arcadia on Friday. General admission at the door is $8, and GCU students and faculty get in free with a valid ID.
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