By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
It was four days of camp, but one shot to prove their merit.
After multiple skating and shooting drills and an inter-squad scrimmage, the Grand Canyon University men’s ice hockey coaching staff selected the official roster for GCU’s American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II team. The roster totals 25 players (pared down from nearly 50) – nine of which are returners from last year’s team.
While the 16 newcomers – including 13 freshmen – bring in more youth, Lopes men’s head ice hockey coach Danny Roy sees a strong advantage that they have over last year’s group.
“We have more players who are in their 20s now as a freshman than we did last year,” Roy said. “We have a more mature group than last year, and most of those 20-year-olds have played at the junior level, so they’ve been playing hockey in a system that’s close to the same level of play as what you’ll see at DI or DII.”
Roy hopes that freshman maturity and experience will blend well with the direction and influence of the returning players. “It’s a new roster, but as far as still having a bit of veteran leadership, I think most of those guys will be able to just fit right in, and it won’t feel like we’ll have a full-on freshman team like we did last year,” Roy said.
Roy is beginning to see his program’s recruiting efforts pay off – and not just in increased roster numbers. “We have much more skill than we did last year,” Roy said. “We have a higher hockey IQ than we did last year, so that’s going to give us coaches the ability to go right in and be creative with how we want to run our offensive rushes, forechecks, traps, breakouts, everything.”
Roy’s hockey background was as a goaltender, so the head coach was particularly impressed with what he will see between the pipes.
“We have three guys who are going to make it very difficult to pick a starting goalie on night one,” Roy said. “It’s going to be whoever steps up in these practices and shows that they’re battling.”
The Lopes have two weeks of practice to prepare for what will be the toughest test yet against Arizona State’s ACHA Division I team Sept. 22 and 23. So far, Roy has only seen this year’s team in limited formats. But he sees an opportunity for continued growth and a chance to send a message to the rest of the league.
“I know the guys I’ve talked to, they’re excited that they get to play a DI opponent,” said Roy. “The message is going to be ‘the ACHA wants to know if you’re ready. Show them. Prove that we should be at that level’. If we come out, play a strong game and stay out of the box, it should be a good, competitive game.”
To see the full team, check out the roster on the GCU men’s ice hockey page.