By David Carter/GCU Club Sports Web Marketing Intern
“At the start of the year, we expected to be at nationals. Now, it’s the time of the year to make that final push.”
Those words from GCU Men’s Ice Hockey senior forward Wyatt Grant illustrate the mentality the Lopes have heading into the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division 2 (D2) West Regional tomorrow night against Brigham Young University (BYU). The tournament will determine which two teams from the ACHA Western Region make it to the 2019 ACHA D2 National Championship Tournament in Dallas, Texas.
The 6th-seeded Lopes (15-14-3) and 7th-seeded Cougars (19-9-1) are no strangers to each other. They’ve squared off four times in the past two seasons, with the Cougars winning their last matchup, 2-1, at AZ Ice Arcadia in November.
Even though GCU lost their most recent contest against BYU, the Lopes do have one mental advantage tonight: a win over the Cougars in last year’s play-in first round regional game.
“It has always been a close game between the teams,” said Grant. “It is usually a battle either way honestly.”
Neither team has won by more than two goals against the other in the last two years.
For last year’s regionals, GCU traveled to Ogden in northern Utah – roughly an 11-hour drive. This year, the Lopes will not have to venture more than 40 minutes to get to Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, the host ice rink for the tournament.
“(That) is really huge for us,” said Grant. “We get to sleep in our beds, cook our own meals, and that really adds up for us in the end.”
One other advantage about having regionals in the Phoenix area is the home crowd that will come with it.
“A home crowd is huge for any type of playoff game,” said Grant. “It gives you that energy to play well, and hypes you up that much more.”
However much a home crowd ‘hypes’ up the Lopes, the equation is the same: wins over BYU and their Saturday opponent mean they head to Dallas. A loss ends their season.
“We have a high morale,” said Grant. “Everybody knows it is make or break time. Everyone loves each other on this team, and we are dialed in.”
GCU will open up play against BYU on Friday, March 1 at 7 pm at Oceanside Ice Arena (near McClintock Drive and McKellips Road in Tempe). If they win Friday, the Lopes play again at either 4 pm or 7 pm on Saturday.
Check out this link for seeding information on the tournament.
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