’21 graduating class recognized for imprint on Lopes’ program
By: Giovanni Hicks/GCU Club Sports Writing Staff
“This senior class is the reason why we are where we are today. Through multiple conference playoffs, regional tournaments, and big wins over in-state rivals, these players built a strong legacy within our program.”
While having their final season spoiled due to the COVID-19 pandemic was not an ideal ending to their collegiate careers, the words of Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy show how much the Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey 2021 graduating class – forwards Noah Cascio, Tyler Millar, Zach Nasternak, Jeffrey Payne, Gabe Rankin and Luke Stephenson,; defenders Drew Cronin and Sullivan Murphy; and goalies Michael Barabash and Robert Lucas – are appreciated for their time as Lopes. For some, they have contributed to the GCU Men’s Hockey program all four years. For others, they joined the team as upperclassmen, but still impacted the Lopes’ success immensely.
Their fondest memories?
“My favorite experience during my GCU career was helping us get into the history books by making the playoffs for the first time as a team and winning our first game,” said Lopes’ goalie Michael Barabash.
That first playoff win was Barabash recording the first-ever shutout in Lopes’ history against Brigham Young University.
For Lopes’ defender Sullivan Murphy, it was an instant overtime classic just a few months after the BYU victory that tops his list.
“The shootout win against Arizona State University is one of the best memories for me,” said Murphy. “It was a huge achievement, and it was even sweeter that we could do it in their arena.”
While sharing these unforgettable experiences, the players also recognized the importance of having such a supportive coaching staff in their corner.
“The mentorship from the coaches throughout my time here was something special,” said Lopes’ forward Jeffrey Payne. “Coach Roy knew how to get everyone to give 100% effort, and play for the crest on our chest, not the name on our back.”
Coming from Ontario, Canada, Murphy struggled to adapt to the American playstyle during his freshman season at GCU.
With the help of Roy and the coaching staff, Murphy made the proper adjustments.
“Coach Roy talked with me and told me that he and the other coaches had confidence and trust in my skills,” said Murphy. “That same night, we faced off against Northern Arizona University, and I scored my first collegiate goal. From there, I was able to settle in and grow my game.”
Murphy went on to make the ACHA All-Conference team in his sophomore and junior seasons and served as the Lopes’ team captain during his senior year.
Although the class of 2021 is hanging up the purple and white, they helped shape and influence GCU’s hockey program greatly throughout their careers.
“This class helped the program climb into the ACHA D1 level,” said Roy. “They created a foundation that current and incoming players will build upon for years to come.”
Be sure to check out the GCU Men’s Ice Hockey Twitter account here for updates on the team.