Lopes fall with 39 seconds left in overtime
By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Adversity can be a fickle beast.
One play turns into one loss. One loss can turn into a second one. That second loss can turn into a weeks-long losing streak. Before you realize, it feels like the entire season is going the wrong way.
Right now, Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey is mired in such a skid, and has a hard time finding their way out. But if there is any indication on the Lopes turning their season around, their effort Sunday afternoon in Tucson might well be the start of it.
The Lopes took No. 14 Division I University of Arizona to the brink, willing the game into overtime, but a late goal from the Wildcats ended the game, 3-2, and the hopes of an upset along with what is now the longest losing streak in program history at six games (and longest winless streak at eight).
“We know we have been in a slump, but this is a step in the right direction,” Lopes Head Coach Danny Roy said. “We’ve had some bad morale in the group, but we know we have a good hockey team. The effort tonight shows that.”
In the back-and-forth, 3-on-3 overtime, the Lopes took advantage of the open ice to get their chances, but Arizona still had the last say. With the clock ticking toward half-a-minute remaining in overtime, Arizona’s Bayley Marshall got behind the GCU defense on a line change to skate in on a breakaway. Charging toward the net, Marshall slipped the puck between the pads of sophomore goaltender Michael Barabash to finish off the narrow victory.
To get the game to overtime, the Lopes had to survive a defensive game throughout. A highly-skilled Wildcats offense found their way up ice on a consistent basis, putting up 50 shots on net in the game compared to the Lopes’ 18. Even while UA controlled much of the zone time, the defensive play for GCU forced many of the shots to be either out wide by the faceoff circles, or up high toward the blue line. Any shot that did get through was ultimately saved and held onto by Barabash, who made 47 saves.
“I’m someone who thrives on work,” Barabash said. “The more work I get, I feel like the better I get. We needed a win, and didn’t end up getting one, but I’m going to do everything I can back there to give the boys a chance up front.”
The chances that Barabash did give the team were upheld shortly thereafter. The Wildcats’ Justin Plumhoff opened the scoring with less than a minute remaining in the first period, but the Lopes returned the favor with an early second period goal. Directly from the left-circle faceoff, freshman forward Brendan Bouvier’s faceoff win slid behind him to the stick of sophomore forward Noah Cascio, whose wrist shot found the net to tie the game. Nearly 10 minutes later, Arizona’s Ben Jones scored 17 seconds into a power play to put the Wildcats back in front, but GCU would immediately get back into the game on the ensuing restart. Freshman forward Declan Carter took a pass from freshman defenseman Drew Cronin at the defensive blue line, and easily skated through neutral ice into the offensive zone. Carter’s wrist shot would go between two UA defenders and past the left-handed glove of Anthony Ciurro to tie the game once more.
Roy has stated before that the inability in responding after their opponent’s go-ahead goals has been a factor in the current slump. But after seeing the Lopes answer back the way they did, there are only positives to be taken away.
“You would see it start to happen, then a few of the guys on the bench would remind everyone, ‘Let’s not get down on ourselves,'” said Roy, referring to the morale on the bench after the Arizona goals. “Before, when we would go down, you wouldn’t hear the group reminding each other that it’s just one goal. Hearing that tonight is a positive.”
GCU was outshot, 17-3, in a scoreless third period. The Lopes were called for only three penalties in the game, their lowest output of the season.
Moral victories are hard to swallow, but the work continues for GCU. Starting Thursday against Utah Valley University, the Lopes will be in Provo, Utah to begin the Beehive Showcase, where they will play four games in four days against Utah Valley, Williston State College, Dakota College and the current West Region No. 1, University of Mary.
“We might have only gotten one point on the scoresheet, but tonight we executed a game plan and saw results we haven’t seen lately,” Barabash said. “The energy is there, the culture is back and we’re all excited to get to Utah and get some wins against some top-end teams.”
The Lopes return to AZ Ice Arcadia December 1 and 2 when they play host to Weber State University.
Division III Lopes drop two high-scoring games
Despite lighting the lamp 11 times in 2 games, the GCU DIII Men’s Ice Hockey team was swept over the weekend by the University of New Mexico, falling Saturday night, 7-5, and Sunday afternoon, 9-6.
GCU, which was recently ranked No. 15 in the Pacific Region, came back from an early 2-0 hole Saturday to get back in the game, but the Lobos held on for the win. Marvin Simmons scored twice in the game to lead GCU.
The Lopes built an early 2-0 lead on Sunday but couldn’t sustain the offensive momentum, despite seeing six different players score.
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