By David Carter/GCU Staff
“I threw it on net, and when you throw pucks on net, good things happen.”
Those words from GCU Men’s Ice Hockey defenseman Steven Spencer epitomized the historic weekend for his Lopes’ team, since they made many ‘good things happen’, putting the puck in net 12 times in a weekend sweep of archrival Arizona State University (ASU) at AZ Ice Arcadia.
Spencer’s Saturday night goal – the first of his Lopes’ career – helped the Lopes beat ASU twice, shutting the Sun Devils out Friday, 4-0, before outlasting them Saturday night, 8-4.
Friday: GCU 4, ASU 0
It was the key for Friday’s 4-0 victory against ASU. GCU goalie Gabriel Lepper had himself quite a performance.
“This is my first-ever shutout with GCU,” said Lepper. “It feels so amazing. But it was not just me. My teammates helped me out a bunch.”
Lopes’ Forward Richard Bohan gave Lepper all the offense he would need with a goal midway through the 1st period on assists from Jeff Payne and Trey Greene.
Two minutes later, the Lopes extended their lead to 2-0 on a goal scored by junior forward Matt Tweten with assists from Brenden Bouvier and Collin Marx. A power-play goal by Luke Wilson in the 2nd period and a 3rd-period goal by Payne rounded out the 4-0 shutout.
After the game, GCU Men’s Ice Hockey Head Coach Daniel Roy emphasized the importance of how Lepper’s performance will contribute to his on-ice maturity.
“This was only his 3rd full game of the season,” said Roy. “He gave us a shot to win, and it is a lot easier to win when he does not let any of them in.”
It was a feat that Roy – a former goalie himself – could be a little envious of.
“I remember what it was like when I got my first shutout,” said Roy. “It took me much longer than it took him.”
Saturday: GCU 8, ASU 4
After being bottled up Friday night by the goaltenders, both team’s offenses wasted little time getting on track Saturday.
The first period proved to be an early indicator of just how offensively aggressive the Lopes would be, firing 25 shots on goal against ASU goalie Jeremy Levitt. GCU quickly leaped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from forwards Declan Carter and Bouvier. However, ASU came right back within the next three minutes to tie the game with goals from Nathan Becker and Aidan Ward. Undeterred, the Lopes regained their two-goal lead over the next seven minutes of play – thanks to goals from Greene and Wyatt Grant – before the Sun Devils ended the back-and-forth period on a Chris Bird goal to cut the Lopes’ lead to one after one period.
Spencer helped the Lopes finally take control of the game in the second period by using a Drew Cronin assist to score his first career goal in GCU colors, and gain some confidence after a rough fall.
“[The goal] felt good,” Spencer said. “I had a tough first semester. I could not play coming off an injury, so it feels good. The boys played well, and all I could ask for is to be back.”
Spencer’s score spurred a rapid succession of Lopes’ goals as forwards Noah Cascio and Luke Stephenson scored over the next eight minutes to give the Lopes an insurmountable 7-3 lead.
“Offensively, I think it was more of a complete game,” said Roy. “We pressed hard. We were physical. We did not give them a lot of time and space in their offensive zone to get good breaks out.”
Roy also beamed about the history made by his team over the weekend.
“This is our first-ever season sweep of a Division II ASU team,” said Roy. “We won all four games, so that is a big milestone for our program.”
The Lopes do not have long to celebrate, though, since they’ll travel to Colorado for the Big Mountain Classic and face several highly ranked teams in their division.
“All four teams are going to be physical and press us,” said Roy. “Having depth and being able to have four lines that will be able to contribute at some point is going to be huge. It is a good opportunity for us to go up there and get some good ranking points.”
The Lopes kick off the Big Mountain Classic with a matchup against the University of Denver (Colorado) on Thursday, January 17 at 9:15 p.m. Arizona time in Denver.