By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
What a difference a week can make.
One week after taking an 8-2 loss at Utah State, their largest margin of loss this season, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey Division II Team battled with the same Aggies’ team in Peoria, but wound up with a different result. Losing just 2-1 this time around, the Lopes used improved defense and special teams to stick with one of the top teams in the west.
“Definitely much better than our game against them last weekend,” Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy said.
After a scoreless first period, the Aggies jumped ahead six minutes into the second period on a power play goal. The Lopes flipped the momentum from there, using more aggressive play to maintain possession. GCU’s persistence paid off with four minutes left in the period as Gabe Rankin netted a power play goal to tie the game.
The game remained tied until Utah State broke through with a goal seven minutes into the third period. GCU would find chances the rest of the way, but a goal never came.
Penalties and high aggression was the story throughout. The game featured 13 penalties (six for GCU), including a game misconduct penalty that sent the Lopes’ Wyatt Grant out in the first period.
Despite the multiple man disadvantages, Roy continues to be impressed with what he is seeing from his penalty kill. “The guys are starting to play more aggressive on the kill,” Roy said. “They’re blocking shots when they need to, and they’re pressuring, keeping the puck to the outside and not in the middle.”
When on the power play, the Lopes have countered. With the power play goal by Rankin, the Lopes have now scored on the man advantage in three of their last four games.
“We’ve worked on it each week, and I’ve dedicated a lot of time to that,” Roy said. “We’re almost always going to have power plays, and those are sometimes the difference between winning and losing a game by a goal.”
The Lopes hit the road again as they travel to California to take on the Long Beach State 49ers Nov. 3 and 4. With Northern Arizona University coming up at home the weekend after, there are continued opportunities to make noise in the west.
“We want to play the entire season like it’s a playoff, and we’re here to ruin everyone else’s chances of making it to the finals,” Roy said.