By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
It may be their first playoff experience, but it was business as usual.
Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey earned its first-ever playoff victory as they defeated No. 12 Weber State University for the fourth time this season, 4-1, in the first round of the Mountain West Collegiate Hockey League Playoffs in Provo, Utah.
The win moves the Lopes into the semifinals where they will take on Utah State University at 5 pm Friday.
A fast pace from the start set the tone for No. 9 GCU. Five minutes in, the Lopes were able to roll through all four lines while WSU was still working on just their second shift. GCU took advantage and put the momentum on their side when Trey Greene knocked in the puck as the Lopes were crashing the net. More chances came GCU’s way before Matt Tweten put in a pass from Noah Wilson with 5:37 remaining. The forecheck that continued to work all period tallied another goal under a minute later as Noah Cascio put home an unassisted tally. In an attempt to slow down the momentum, Weber State immediately called a timeout.
“The bench was lively, and guys were just having fun,” Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy said. “The guys were all confident in each other at that point.”
An expected change in tempo from the Wildcats put them back in the game with an early second-period goal. But it never dampened GCU’s mood as they continued to find more opportunities the rest of the period. The Lopes didn’t score in the second, but they put away any lingering hope for a comeback as Marvin Simmons scored on a power play one minute into the third period.
“They got a little jump after that goal, but our guys matched that same intensity and continued on with our forecheck,” Roy said. “The goal really helped out our power play and gave our team the confidence for sure.”
Michael Barabash started in goal for GCU and put up another solid performance, denying 37 of 38 WSU shots.
GCU now has Utah State next. This will be the third time the Lopes will matchup with USU this year, and they’ll be going for the first win against the Aggies (GCU lost both meetings, 8-2 and 2-1, back in late October). Roy knows a strong, defensive game will be needed to put the Lopes in the championship game.
“We’re going to have to play physical and we have to be determined,” Roy said. “It’s going to be a matter of us coming together and really wanting it.”