Lopes looking to end longest winless streak in program history
By Jesse Vineyard and David Carter/GCU Staff
Call it effort. Call it mental. Whatever the reason is, Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey is in a funk right now.
The Lopes returned to AZ Ice Arcadia for two high-profile rivalry games, but were swept in a weekend series by Northern Arizona University, 5-1 and 6-2. With the two losses, GCU has now gone winless in six straight games, the longest such streak in the program’s three-year history.
“It’s a tough situation right now,” Lopes Head Coach Danny Roy said. “It’s nothing that we’ve dealt with before with our growing pains, but this group is getting a little frustrated with trying to do too much to fix it, instead of keeping it simple and letting it slowly come back.”
In Saturday night’s 6-2 loss, GCU had 41 shots on goal compared to NAU’s 37, but still ended up on the losing side. Lopes’ sophomore goaltender Michael Barabash saved a total of 31 shots, but it was not enough to defeat the IceJacks.
The story of the match was capitalizing on opportunities, something NAU did more often than the Lopes. The IceJacks jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Tegan Harrington and Michael Emson, but the Lopes came storming back shortly before the end of the first with a power play goal from freshman forward Declan Carter off an assist from sophomore forward Jeffrey Payne.
In the second period, both teams battled, but NAU came away with the key goal. GCU earned a five-minute power play opportunity with 9:54 remaining in the period, but it would be wiped away momentarily when Payne took a penalty 20 seconds in. NAU then took advantage with a goal from Lucas Lomax less than a minute later to give the IceJacks a 3-1 lead and the momentum.
Lopes’ sophomore forward Noah Cascio’s goal with 7:59 left in the second cut the deficit back to one, but NAU’s Malachi Bushey scored late in the period to send NAU to the intermission with a 4-2 lead. NAU iced the win and the weekend sweep with two goals midway in the third period.
“The determination was on their side of the ice,” Roy said. “They were fighting. Every time they did something well, their bench rallied and got going.”
The entirety of Friday night’s matchup could be told from the first period. NAU scored four times on 10 shots in the first – all within six minutes of each other – while GCU didn’t record their first shot on goal until seven minutes remained in the period. Roy then sent a message to his team with a goalie change after NAU’s fourth goal, switching starter Michael Norris with Barabash.
“I never like doing that,” Roy said. “I’ve played goalie, so I know what it feels like when you get taken out. When the team is not prepared and ready to play, the goalie gets hung out to dry, so there’s no use in keeping him in there and letting him drain away. The team needs to know they’re responsible for that stuff.”
NAU’s Max Mahood added a power play goal in the second to extend the lead. GCU’s sophomore defenseman Sullivan Murphy scored the lone tally for the Lopes with a power play goal in the third.
The Lopes now have six days of practice to devise how to end the longest winless streak in program history. GCU returns home Friday, November 9 at 6:30 pm against Brigham Young University (BYU) at AZ Ice Arcadia before heading out to Tucson on November 11 for another matchup with Division I University of Arizona.
“We have to start from square one and go with a clean slate,” Roy said. “Next week is a tough week. We do not have any easy weekends on our schedule at all. We are six games down right now.”
Division III Lopes Ties, Loses to NAU in Flagstaff
GCU’s Division III team continued their rivalry with the DIII IceJacks with two hard-fought overtime games over the weekend.
NAU won Friday night, 5-4, with a shorthanded goal in the extra period. GCU scored twice in the final two minutes of the third period to send the game to overtime.
On Saturday, it was the IceJacks who scored late in the third to send the game to overtime, but neither team could find the net for the game winner, ending the game in a 4-4 tie.
GCU returns home for a two-game set at AZ Ice Arcadia with last year’s West region No. 2 seed, University of New Mexico, Saturday November 10 at 6:30 pm, and Sunday, November 11 at 10:30 am.