Penalty box fills up as Lopes drop close season opener to nationally-ranked Arizona State
By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Late-staged comebacks can breathe life into a team.
Friday night at Oceanside Ice Arena, Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey was able to receive their second wind in the final minutes, but it was ultimately Arizona State University who had the last say.
The Lopes scored twice in the third period to get within a goal of the Sun Devils, but ASU staved off any last attempt by GCU to earn a 4-2 win in both team’s season opener.
“We saw the fight,” Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy said. “3-2 with an empty-netter against a DI program that’s been on the ice for a few more weeks than us is a good start.”
Down 3-0 heading into the final period, the Lopes were looking for a quick start to begin a new game. Going 0-for-5 on the power play through the first two periods, the Lopes made their one and only man-advantage situation in the third period count. With clean cycle play, GCU’s Zach Bennett fired a low shot on net that was saved by the right pad of ASU goaltender Bronson Moore, but the Lopes’ Wyatt Grant pounced on the loose puck with a backhand to give GCU their first goal three minutes into the period.
Momentum continued GCU’s way as the Lopes were able to outshoot ASU 12-2 through the first half of third period. Still down 3-1 with nine minutes to go, hard work paid off when Bennett popped in his first career goal off a redeflected pass out of the right corner by Grant off Declan Carter, who earned his first career assist.
The goal, though, would be the closest GCU would get as the Lopes were held to just one shot the rest of the game. The Lopes pulled Michael Barabash with a minute remaining, but ASU’s Levi Hulston sealed the win with an empty-net goal with seven seconds left.
“We came out and did what we talked about right after that second period. We needed to clean it up, and we did,” Roy said.
GCU was outshot, 12-2, in a second period that was largely dominated by ASU. The Sun Devils added their second goal one minute into the middle frame as Adam Havener weaved through defenders into the slot for a wrist shot that clipped off GCU goalie Michael Barabash’s glove. Jett Larson added an unassisted goal with under six minutes left in the second to up ASU’s lead to 3-0.
The Sun Devils, ranked No. 24 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I preseason poll, used their size and speed to make things difficult in the second period for GCU. The Lopes had trouble finding their rhythm, which was also interrupted by several trips to the penalty box. Through the first two periods, 18 penalties were called, including eight for GCU. Not counting three matching minor penalties from both teams, the Lopes were a man down for nearly 10 minutes throughout the game. The Sun Devils scored their opening goal on the power play in the first period via Garrett Amaya, but were unable to capitalize on any other advantage. Still, Roy saw many opportunities missed by the frequent skates to the penalty box.
“(In) the first period, we were right there with them, but the second period (we) just came out flat right from the drop of the puck,” Roy said. “Five-on-five, we were a good team with them, but when we had to shorten our bench with some undisciplined penalties, that’s where you saw the gap.”
GCU outshot ASU, 29-26, in the game. Despite scoring just once on seven power play attempts, Roy and the Lopes were able to take away enough positives to add to Saturday night’s matchup.
“For us to go right into the game and have puck movement and have guys setting up plays is big,” Roy said. “Our big issue last year was our power play, so if it continues to grow off of what we saw tonight, we can be pretty dangerous.”
The Lopes and Sun Devils play again Saturday at 6:30 pm at Oceanside Ice Arena.