Offense comes alive as Lopes’ DI team posts first two wins of season
By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
The Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey team has been introduced to the ACHA Division I level with a less-than-welcoming reception. Their five straight losses to begin the season was the worst start in program history.
Determined to end the losing streak as they began a two-game ‘home-and-home’ series with Northern Arizona University, the Lopes did just that, sweeping the IceJacks in impressive fashion. The Lopes showcased the offense in Game 1 Friday in Flagstaff with a 7-4 victory, then controlled the puck and limited NAU’s offense in Game 2, taking Saturday’s game at AZ Ice Arcadia, 2-1.
“This is the opponent we have played the most over the past few years,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy. “Obviously we didn’t want to continue to play bad, but more importantly, playing against a DII squad, we wanted to prove we belonged in DI.”
Friday: GCU 7, NAU 4
Despite the drive north to a much cooler climate, once the puck dropped, the Lopes started hot. The first two periods were all Lopes – as evidenced by their 6-1 lead after two. Both the six goals by the Lopes in the first two periods and the seven for the game were Lopes’ season-highs. The seven goals were scored by six different GCU players, led by Brett Ruiz with two.
“We had seven goals, but it wasn’t the prettiest offensive game,” said Roy. “We kept the puck in a pretty good location all game long, and found a way to get the puck in the back of the net.”
The Lopes looked poised to run away with the game until the final period began. The IceJacks came out firing in the third, pouring in three unanswered goals in a three-minute span.
“We came out flat,” Roy said. “We let them gain momentum at the end of the game, we need more determination at the end of games.”
Saturday: GCU 2, NAU 1
Despite the narrow win at home Saturday, Roy was satisfied with his group’s performance and effort.
“We played with much more grit on Saturday,” said Roy. “I was really impressed with our determination.”
Part of the Lopes’ success was their ability to control the game and play at their own pace. GCU outshot the IceJacks, 44-21, on Saturday, largely due to the execution of the game plan.
“The goal was to control the puck and create a presence in the offensive zone,” said Roy. “We wanted to sustain pressure, and we did a much better job doing so, especially in the final period.”
All the scoring came in the second period. GCU scored both of their goals within 18 seconds of each other – courtesy of Collin Madrid and Kory Potach. NAU’s Jake Beck broke up the shutout with 11:28 remaining in the second period. GCU goalie Michael Barabash ended Saturday’s game with 20 saves on 21 shots.
Division II Lopes drop three straight in California
On the Division II side, the Lopes struggled offensively as made their way to Southern California for three games in three days. Friday, the Lopes spotted California State University-Long Beach a 4-0 lead before a furiousthird-period rally fell short in a 5-4 loss. Saturday night, Loyola Marymount University scored the first seven goals of the night in a 9-2 Lopes’ loss. On Sunday morning, California State University-Northridge scored seven goals in the second period alone en route to an 11-1 decision.
The DII Lopes are back on the road Nov. 1 as they head to El Paso, Texas to take on the University of Texas, El-Paso.
The DI Lopes are back in action this weekend when they welcome the University of Arizona to AZ Ice Arcadia on Friday and Saturday at 7 pm.
As long as GCU plays to their game plan and continues to play well on special teams, Roy is optimistic about what is to come.
“Our special teams have played really well,” said Roy. “Games like this will always come down to the little things, so I think that will be huge this weekend.”
Come out and support the Lopes and check out clubsports.gcu.edu for all the latest news and updates. General admission at the door is $8, but GCU students and faculty get in free with a valid GCU ID. It is also ‘Pink the Rink Weekend’ in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and purple, and a portion of the gate receipts will go to benefit breast cancer awareness.
Interested in joining GCU Ice Hockey? Contact the coach for the men’s ice hockey team to learn more!