By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
It may sound like a broken record, but it’s one that keeps on playing.
Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey recorded more program firsts Thursday night in Ogden, Utah with a 2-0 victory over Brigham Young University to advance at the American Collegiate Hockey Association West Regional Tournament.
The first-ever goal and win at a regional tournament, to go along with the first-ever shutout in program history, allowed the No. 9 Lopes to keep their season – and hopes for the national tournament – alive.
GCU takes on the No. 4 Williston State College Tetons Friday night at 4 pm in the second round.
“There’s no doubt we have a team that can do it. It’s just a matter of us trying to focus on the task at hand, and not get our heads in the clouds too early,” Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy said.
Nick Marolda cashed in the historic goal halfway into the second period after Zach Nasternak carried the puck into the zone for an odd-man rush. Nasternak’s initial shot was saved by BYU goaltender Jared Manzella, but fell right to the stick of Marolda in the slot for the tally.
The goal would remain standing throughout the rest of the game, but the Lopes would have to answer for continued pressure from the BYU offense, which outshot the Lopes, 18-6, in the final period. As time wound down in the third, that pressure didn’t get any easier as GCU recorded two penalties a minute apart, and was forced to play at a 5-on-3 disadvantage with six minutes remaining in the period. But as has happened all season in big moments, the Lopes played desperation hockey to erase the penalties and gain much-needed momentum.
“That 5-on-3 kill was really key to give us a chance there,” Roy said.
All five Lopes’ penalties in the game were killed off.
From then on, GCU continued to ride another outstanding performance in net from Michael Barabash. Even with the increased pressure, Barabash stopped all 43 shots that came his way to give GCU its first shutout in program history.
“In must-win situations, you have to start from the back-end out,” Roy said. “Him showing up like he normally does, it allowed us to know that we had that backstop back there. He made the saves he wasn’t supposed to make, but more importantly, he made the saves he needed to make.”
With 20 seconds remaining, Trey Greene picked up a loose puck at the center line and buried it into an empty net to seal it. Barabash still had to make a couple of sprawling saves toward the end, but GCU would still skate away with the win and another shot toward their ultimate goal.
Scouting the Tetons
This will be the second time the Lopes and Tetons match up this season. At the Beehive Showcase in mid-November, Williston State came away with a 5-4 victory, but not without GCU keeping the game close throughout. The Tetons led, 3-1, late in the second period, but the Lopes scored three straight going into the third period to take a 4-3 lead. WSC, though, scored twice in the final four minutes to come back for the win.
Williston State is a two-year college based in Williston, North Dakota. Finishing at 16-16-3, the Tetons have played a heavy mixture of Division I and Division II teams. Led by James Williams’ 27 goals, WSC owns a high-powered offense that averages four goals per game, but also is a team that allows that same number of goals on defense.
Much like the first matchup, Roy expects another physical game that will take an extra bit of determination to move on for another chance.
“They have all the tools,” Roy said. “It’s not going to be a game that we want to sleep on. We have to be prepared when the puck drops.”