By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Having an opinion on which shade of purple is better is subjective. Yet for the one weekend where the debate could be decided on the ice, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey team made sure their Pantone hue reigned supreme.
In a battle of ranked teams, the No. 10 Lopes took down the No. 8 Weber State Wildcats in a two-game weekend sweep, 5-3 on Saturday evening, and 6-1 Sunday afternoon.
With each team separated by mere percentage points in the rankings, the importance of these games were immediately felt. A split of the games from either side would almost wash out the results, and a sweep would do damage to the losing side in the rankings. GCU earned the sweep with constant physical play, and a sustained forecheck and backcheck, to come out on top.
Each was evident from the Lopes Sunday afternoon where after a scoreless first period, GCU lit up the scoreboard with three second period goals. Matt Tweten, who scored a hat trick in Saturday’s game, opened the scoring eight minutes into the period on a 2-on-1, picking up the puck from his own blue line, weaving around defenders and lifting it just underneath the crossbar. The game would remain 1-0 until Wyatt Grant ripped a one-timer off a loose puck with just under three minutes to play. Before the public address announcer could finish the goal announcement, the Lopes’ Marvin Simmons scored within the next 49 seconds to make it 3-0.
Simmons scored again two minutes into the third period, and later after a Weber State power play goal, Brad Hookom and Brett Kramer each tallied goals of their own off the sustained forechecking that continued to work all game.
“When the bench is positive and feeling that energy, being tired from a hit or shift all goes away because of that positivity,” Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy said. “In the first period, there was a lot of negative energy because of a lack of focus. It’s just amazing what positive energy does to momentum.”
Depth scoring continues to be a major plus for the Lopes. Simmons is the hottest Lopes’ scorer at the moment with eight goals in his last five games. Tweten is right behind Simmons with six in his last eight. Combine those two with Grant, Hookom and Kramer, and Roy can point to an impressive stat: each line plus a defenseman recorded a goal on Sunday.
“Every line did what they needed to do,” Roy said. “It’s nice to know that when we put a line out, they’re going to do their job. When they execute, they’re going to get offensive opportunities. It’s been our motto all season.”
Lopes Come from Behind for 5-3 Victory Saturday Night
In the most physical game of the weekend, the Lopes erased a 2-1 deficit late in the second period, and scored the game-winner with under five minutes to play to earn the 5-3 win over WSU.
The first period featured 18 penalty minutes, and the second period saw 10 penalty minutes be called. The Wildcats would serve three unsportsmanlike penalties in the last six minutes of the middle frame alone, which would change the momentum of the game.
With GCU trailing 2-1, Nick Marolda tied the game with under 6:30 to play in the period, beating the goaltender blocker side. Four minutes later, Matt Tweten’s second of the night came on a mad scramble in the crease when Weber State Goalie Kyle Lane was unable to control the puck.
An evenly played third period would see Weber State tie the game with 5:58 remaining, but Tweten’s hat trick goal with 4:42 remaining would turn into the game-winner. Brett Kramer added an insurance goal 34 seconds later to officially seal it.
“From the drop of the puck, the pace of the game was awesome,” Roy said. “The week of practice leading up to this weekend was by far the best [all year].”
The game was also the annual Teddy Bear Toss, where GCU was able to collect nearly 70 teddy bears that will be donated to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The stuffed bears came flying onto the ice three and a half minutes into the second period when Tweten scored a power play goal.
It is now onto the winter break where GCU Men’s Ice Hockey will not play again until January 5 and 6 at the University of Arizona.
“The guys now have to hold themselves a little accountable,” Roy said. “They have to get some ice time, get in the gym. They have to focus on staying ready because it won’t be an easy return.”