By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Even in its second season, the Grand Canyon University men’s ice hockey team is still recording firsts.
GCU upended Arizona State 5-3 on Sunday afternoon in Tempe, the first win over the Sun Devils in the program’s history.
After Friday night’s 5-3 loss, the Lopes were looking for a bit of redemption against their in-city rivals. Much like Friday, the game was even through the first 20 minutes. But unlike Friday, GCU learned to keep battling all night, something that made Danny Roy a happy head coach after the game.
“The guys realized they left a little more left on the table than what they’re able to do,” Roy said. “You saw that in (Sunday’s) game. They went that extra bit that they were leaving out and holding back from.”
As was the case Friday, GCU opened up the scoring in the first period. Right after a power play expired, Luke Wilson stuffed home a wraparound chance late in the period. But ASU quickly responded a minute and a half later when Markus Valvur put home a loose puck in the slot.
With a 16-12 shot disadvantage in the first, GCU kept finding its chances. Trey Greene capitalized on one of them as he raced through neutral ice for a shorthanded goal three minutes into the second. Six minutes later, Nick Marolda turned in a highlight-reel goal, deking the ASU goaltender out of the crease and lifting the puck in the net for a 3-1 lead.
ASU cut the deficit to one late in the second, but GCU would not be deterred. Wyatt Grant scored five minutes into the third period, ripping a slap shot from the high slot. The Sun Devils got their third four minutes later, but the Lopes delivered the knockout blow 58 seconds later as Noah Cascio tapped home a pass from Gabe Rankin off a 2-on-1.
“It was important for us to learn how to play with a lead,” Roy said. “We won that second period to give us that lead going into the third, but what we haven’t been able to do was build off that lead. We’re very young in learning how to have a winning culture, so we need to build off this and carry it into our practices.”
Arizona State led in shots overall 37-35, but Michael Barabash stood strong in net, stopping 34 of 37 shots while making several key saves in the third to keep GCU in front.
“’Bash’ is solid when he needs to be, but when he comes up with those 2-on-0 saves just to give the bench that extra energy, that’s really going to help them,” Roy said.
The Lopes travel next weekend to Utah for three tough road games against Brigham Young University, Weber State and Utah State. GCU returns home for a Sunday matinee October 29th vs. Utah State.
Men’s Ice Hockey Team 1 Falls to Arizona State
On Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Gila River Arena last Friday, GCU was not able to hold a first period lead, falling to Arizona State 5-3.
“(At) the start of the game, we were the best team,” Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy said. “The problem was we got a two-goal lead, and we got comfortable and let them right back in the game.”
Wearing pink stripes on their jerseys and sticks, the Lopes felt the energy from the sizable purple-clad crowd of nearly 1,000 people. GCU’s early 2-0 lead gave the crowd more life, but ASU had other plans, scoring two to tie the game before the first intermission.
From the second period on, Arizona State took over. Jeffrey Payne earned his first goal of the year five minutes into the second period for the Lopes, but ASU responded with three unanswered goals to keep GCU behind.
Roy sent the message of puck battles and effort as reasons for defeat, but beyond that, it was a rivalry game that Roy wants his team to understand the meaning of.
“We are playing a team that is right next door to us,” Roy said. “It’s a ‘bragging rights-type’ game and we need to get up for these games.”
Outside of the game, playing in an NHL rink while showing support for breast cancer awareness gave the proceedings even more significance.
“The turnout was great. It’s fun to play here,” Roy said. “And being able to donate a good chunk of change to the American Cancer Society is always welcome, too.”