By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
With just one month left in the regular season, every win and point counts. The fight to the finish was put on display at the Big Mountain Classic in Colorado where No. 9 Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey was one of 14 teams to participate – all of whom were ranked in their respective region. Playing four games in four days, the Lopes went 2-2, increasing their record to 12-14-3 overall.
GCU first took on No. 14 Colorado State University Friday evening, and pulled away with a three-goal second period to earn a 6-3 win. Trey Greene scored the lone goal in the first period for GCU before Nick Marolda, Marvin Simmons and Noah Cascio each tallied one of their own in the second. The Rams attempted a late comeback on a goal with under seven minutes to play in the third period, but Jeffrey Payne scored 14 seconds later to thwart the bid. Cascio added his second of the game with three seconds left.
The Lopes are now 2-0 versus the Rams on the season after beating them, 6-4, back on October 1.
GCU had a quick turnaround for an early afternoon matchup with No. 19 Dakota College at Bottineau the next day. The North Dakota-based Jacks jumped ahead, 2-0, with late goals in the first period, but Payne cut the lead in half on a goal with 30 seconds remaining in the period. A scoreless second led to a tight third period, but Dakota held off a final push by the Lopes, handing GCU a 3-2 loss.
The Lopes never found a consistent rhythm, only putting up 17 shots. Michael Barabash denied 38 of 41 Dakota shots to help the Lopes’ chances.
On Sunday, GCU found their game once again as they took down No. 5 Boise State, 6-2. Each team traded goals in the first period, with Marolda scoring for GCU. In the second, the Lopes began to run away as Wyatt Grant and Gabe Rankin scored one minute apart halfway into the period. The Broncos scored with under a minute remaining in the period, but that would be their final goal of the game. Cascio scored twice more in the third period, and Cameron Wojnicki added an insurance goal late to seal the win.
The victory over the Broncos is the highest-ranked opponent the Lopes have ever beaten in regulation.
GCU looked to finish off the weekend with a winning record Monday afternoon, but No. 12 University of Colorado got the better of the Lopes with an 8-2 victory. The Buffaloes jumped out early with three goals in the first six minutes of the game. The Lopes never recovered as Colorado added two more in the second, and held GCU scoreless in the third period while scoring three more in the final frame. Cascio and Marolda each scored for the Lopes.
Cascio led GCU with five goals on the weekend, Marolda had three, and Greene and Payne each added two.
The Lopes remain in the state of Arizona for the next two weekends as they prepare for four straight rivalry games. GCU hosts No. 10 Arizona State January 20 at AZ Ice Peoria before playing the Sun Devils in Tempe the next day. The Lopes then travel to Flagstaff for a pair with No. 1 Northern Arizona January 26 and 27.