By: David Carter/GCU Staff
Justifying the move. Again.
Proving that their sudden rise in success in 2017-2018 was no fluke, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey team bested their 9th-place finish of that year by winding up this past season ranked 7th. They also reached the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division 2 (D2) Western Regional Tournament for the second year in a row.
As important as those accomplishments are, what may have been just as crucial for the Lopes’ future was one team.
“Two years in a row, we have been able to get a win against a top Division 1 team in the University of Arizona,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy. “This season, we almost beat them twice.”
Why was that so significant? Because next year, the Lopes and Wildcats will be on equal footing. In what turned out to be one of the top moments, if not the top moment, of the season, the ACHA accepted the Lopes’ application to become a Division 1 team back in November.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Roy back in November. “It was part of our five-year building plan that we put together about four years ago. (There’s) a lot of work and preparation to do now, but this gives us a chance to focus on what the next five years will look like.”
The Lopes will still have a home on the Division 2 level, though. That building plan also includes the Lopes’ Division 3 team, who will move up to Division 2 as an independent.
Even though GCU will have a new Division 2 team, the expectations won’t change going forward.
“We have done a lot of good work in D2 to establish a team that is ranked,” said Roy. “The goals are the same for D2, which are to get stronger and continue what we started with our new D1 team. We would like to see that team stay at the level they are at.”
The expectations for the D1 team, you ask?
“We are a lot like our first year in D2,” mentioned Roy. “Our goal and our philosophy is similar. We have nothing to prove. Everyone who plays us has everything to lose. Let’s go out and surprise the league.”
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