By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey received a taste test over the weekend.
In the first games since early December, the Lopes took on Division I No. 13 University of Arizona in Tucson for a two-game weekend series. Friday was a 3-2 victory, the first-ever not just over the Wildcats but also over a Division I opponent. That sweet taste on Friday turned sour on Saturday when GCU was handed a 15-0 rout.
Going from the high of the biggest win in program history to the low of the largest loss can be hard to stomach. But Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy and his team can already look back, know what happened and what they accomplished.
“Friday, we just frustrated them,” Roy said. “We played a good style of game where we minimized turnovers and got the play down into the corners. On Saturday, [Arizona] bounced back in every way they needed to. We were chasing, and just lost poise. But we weren’t supposed to win, so we did what we needed to do, and that was get a big win.”
GCU’s Nick Marolda scored twice on Friday, including the game-winner in the third period when he was left alone in the slot and deked the Arizona goaltender out of the crease. What has been a point of emphasis all season from Roy, the Lopes played the final minutes with the lead, and finished out strong to earn the win.
“[Arizona] was pressing hard, had a power play and pulled their goalie, but there was a determination to win that was blatantly obvious,” Roy said. “We were selling out and blocking shots like we don’t normally do. We wanted to win it so badly because we had been working so hard up to that point.”
To help, the Lopes received yet another outstanding performance in net from Michael Barabash. The Wildcats recorded 52 shots, but Barabash denied 50 to save the game for GCU.
“He played very well,” Roy said. “If our guys are playing well in front of him and giving him an opportunity to stay hot, he’ll make the save.”
Saturday’s game was hardly the favorable outcome. The Wildcats jumped out ahead 4-0 after the first period and led 9-0 after the second, including 40-17 in shots.
“They showed us that they could do whatever they wanted when they pounded us into the ground,” Roy said. “They played much better, and we played completely different.”
Short, simple words were all that were needed to describe Saturday’s matchup. But the message was repeated that the formula for success won’t change. Roy explained that the team already knows what to fix, and how Saturday’s loss can be handled.
“We’re just going to go through practice and touch on them again,” Roy said. “We made sure the guys knew to not get their heads down about losing – no matter if by five or 20 goals.”
By rule, games against a Division I opponent don’t count toward the rankings. But from here on out, all games matter for the Lopes. Starting this weekend, GCU will play four games in four days at the Big Mountain Classic in Colorado. Knowing how this past weekend unfolded, and the big games that lie ahead, the Lopes know each game says a lot toward each spot in the standings.
“We can’t take anything for granted,” Roy said. “We are playing tough teams that find ways to win. We have to find ways to execute, and learn from how [Arizona] played against us.”