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Lopes’ Men’s Hockey team falls to top-ranked NAU

November 10, 2017

Disastrous 2nd period helps IceJacks tag GCU with 5-1 loss

By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director

They got a taste of what it felt like to beat the No. 1 team. Unfortunately, it was just a taste, not an entire meal.

After shutting out top-ranked Northern Arizona University for a period, the 12th-ranked Grand Canyon University Men’s Hockey team watched the IceJacks’ offense use Lopes’ mistakes in the 2nd period to come from behind for a 5-1 win Friday night at AZ Ice Peoria.

Defense near the goal was the main theme for the first period as the two teams combined for 24 shots on goal but had trouble finding the net. The Lopes took a 1-0 advantage into the locker room – thanks to a well-executed power-play goal off the stick of Wyatt Grant, with help from both Jeffrey Payne and Brett Kramer midway through the first period.  Despite being outshot by NAU, 14-10, in the period, the Lopes’ aggressiveness helped neutralize NAU’s various scoring opportunities.

When the two teams squared off at center ice to start the second period, though, the home fans watched the momentum swing quickly to the visiting IceJacks. The ‘Jacks scored twice on their first three shots of the 2nd period-both set up by Lopes’ turnovers deep in NAU territory that turned into long passes and breakaways on the other end. “When there’s an ‘odd-man’ rush for them, it’s usually because we turned the puck over before we wanted to on a rush,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy. “It’s the simple stuff that killed us tonight.”

Just when it seemed the Lopes had regained their defensive composure, the wheels came off in a disastrous stretch later in the period. The Lopes’ inability to clear the puck out of their zone quickly gave NAU extra chances, which they took advantage of as Malachi Bushey, Beau Browning and Kristjan Toivola all scored within just over three minutes of each other to blow the game open. The Toivola goal prompted Roy to pull his starting goalie, Michael Barabash, out of the game, but not to punish the freshman from Calgary himself.  “That was a message to the other guys,” said Roy flatly. “Mike was sliding. He was competing and trying his hardest to keep the puck out of the net. The other guys in front of him weren’t doing their jobs to help him out, so we made a statement to them.”

The Lopes came out for the third period with much of the intensity they began the game with on defense, shutting out the IceJacks for the final 22 minutes of play, but couldn’t mount any kind of a charge of their own to rally. GCU managed just 12 shots on goal after the first period, including just four tries over the last 20 minutes of play. Meanwhile, NAU kept the pressure on GCU’s backline, firing 49 shots on goal, including 21 in the second period alone.

Fortunately for GCU, they won’t have to feel the sting of the loss for very long, since they’ll have a chance to split the weekend series with the IceJacks Saturday night at AZ Ice Peoria. Roy sees a parallel between this weekend and four weeks ago, when the Lopes avenged a Saturday home loss to Arizona State by posting their first-ever win over the Sun Devils the next day on the road. “We lost a game to a rival that we should’ve played better against for 60 minutes, and now we have our ‘redo’ to make up for it, and not be embarrassed two games in a row.” The puck drops at 6:30 pm Saturday and admission to the event is FREE.