Lopes become seventh west coast school in Division I
By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
In 2019, a new era will begin for Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association has accepted GCU to move up as a Division I member, starting with the 2019-2020 season. The move entails the DII team (Team 1) being elevated to DI status, while the DIII team (Team 2) will move up to take the place of Team 1 at the DII level.
“This has been a long time coming,” Lopes Head Coach Danny Roy said. “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.”
As of now, the Lopes will be an independent member at the DI level, meaning they will not be a part of a conference. Nonetheless, the move will still bring with it as much competition as it will notoriety. GCU will be just the seventh school west of the Rocky Mountains to become an ACHA DI member. Along with the likes of this year’s scheduled opponents Arizona State University, University of Arizona and University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the Lopes will join University of Utah, University of Colorado and Colorado State University – all of whom are nationally ranked – as the lone schools representing the west coast in the ACHA DI level.
“Just like we are at DII, our goal is to have as competitive of a schedule as we can,” Roy said. “We want to challenge and we want to be a top-level program. So putting ourselves against the best competition that we possibly can is the goal.”
For the current Team 2, which will take the place of Team 1 at the DII level, the goal remains the same as it was. Playing the usual competition, and maintaining the rivalries with Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University will continue, and so will the purpose of putting a strong product on the ice with the hopes of becoming a national tournament contender.
“Each season, they will have a full schedule-unlike what they have now just because of where all the teams are located in DIII,” Roy said. “We expect that team to be very solid and not dip too much when we move up.”
While the move will have the Lopes playing their toughest schedule to date, Roy does not envision expectations to rise. Much like their first season in 2016, Roy sees the Lopes as the “new kids on the block”, and will have “everything to gain and nothing to lose.” Even if a national tournament berth in their first season isn’t expected, you can still find Roy and Lopes not taking anything lightly – their play on the ice or their path on the recruiting trail.
“These kids are looking for ACHA DI programs and good schools, and I know GCU has everything to offer in that,” Roy said. “Now that we officially will be a DI team, I can start letting guys know that we have a program that fits exactly what they are looking for.”
The ACHA currently has 60 member schools at the Division I level. Next season, there will be 11 other schools joining GCU to bring the total to 72: Aquinas College, Cleary University, Maryville University, McKendree University and Northern Illinois University will become first-year members at the DI level, while previous ACHA members Indiana Institute of Technology, Lawrence Technological University, Concordia University Ann Arbor, Lindenwood University-Belleville, Midland University and Waldorf University will rejoin ACHA DI after playing two years in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.