By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
The third season of play is just around the corner, and heightened competition will greet Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey for the 2018-2019 season.
The 33-game schedule for the Division II Lopes features eight games versus American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I teams; two against Arizona State University, two at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and four against University of Arizona. UNLV and UA both finished in the top 20 last season and participated in the 2018 ACHA DI National Championships. GCU will also play all four ACHA West Region teams who played in the 2018 ACHA DII National Championships: Northern Arizona University, Utah State University, University of Denver and Northern Colorado University.
In all, the Lopes will face 13 teams who finished last season ranked in their respective division.
“We may have one of the top 10 schedules in the west,” Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy said of the strength of schedule. “This schedule is built to succeed. We have the four teams in the west who were at nationals, and we’re playing just about everyone who was at regionals. So if we can get some big wins there, that shows we are a top-4 team.”
This year’s schedule highlights 23 games the Lopes will play within the state of Arizona, including 13 games at their new home rink, AZ Ice Arcadia. GCU will continue to build their already-strong rivalries as they play NAU six times – three at home and three in Flagstaff – and four against ASU DII. The Lopes will also carry on their budding rivalry with Weber State University, a team in which the Lopes defeated all four times they played last season.
“In the games against (Weber State), they’re not even an in-state team, yet the games we have played against them were brutal games,” Roy said. “Our two years of the program, we have played NAU the most out of any team, so it’s kind of hard not to build that rivalry with them. (The ASU games) are a rivalry I don’t think has officially built itself yet, but I think this is the year where we will see a cross-town rivalry be pretty good and aggressive.”
Just like last year, the Lopes will travel to two out-of-state showcases in which they will take on some of the top teams in the west and midwest. In November, the Lopes will be in Utah for the Beehive Showcase to play four games in four days against upstart Utah Valley University, Williston State College, Dakota College and first-year team University of Mary. In January, GCU will be in Colorado for the Big Mountain Classic to play their toughest stretch of four games in four days when they play Denver, Utah State, Northern Colorado and Boise State University.
GCU closes out the season January 25 and 26 with a home-and-home against NAU before entering playoff and regional play in February.
The Division III team begins their season September 30 at home against Colorado School of Mines. Like the DII team, the DIII Lopes will play NAU six times, three at each other’s home rink. GCU will also play last season’s Pacific region No. 2 team and national tournament participant, University of New Mexico, four times along with three games against DII California State University, Fullerton. The 18-game schedule will see the Lopes play nine home games at AZ Ice Arcadia.
“It’s a shorter schedule, but there are enough tough games on there,” Roy said. “It’s not a huge variety with the games on the schedule, but it’s the pieces that are needed to pick up ranking points and get through a successful year.”
GCU opens their season September 14 and 15 against ASU DI in Tempe before their first home game September 22 against UA.