By: Garrett Osterode/GCU Staff
After a physical, heartbreaking season-opening loss to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Sept. 19, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey team headed to Sin City for a weekend rematch, only to fall twice more to the Rebels, losing, 3-1, Friday night, and 4-2, on Saturday.
For the Lopes, a pair of slow first period starts halted their attack, allowing the No. 12 Rebels to perform at their best in front of their home crowd.
“We need to be consistent in how we prepare for games,” said Lopes Head Coach Daniel Roy. “They came out tough in front of their fans. They were ready.”
Friday: UNLV 3, GCU 1
Though the Lopes came out slow in the first period of both games this past weekend, it did not show on the scoreboard on Friday night. The Rebels wore down the Lopes’ defense, outshooting them 23-5, but the game remained scoreless – thanks to excellent goaltending by GCU junior Chad Duran.
“Goaltending was very good,” said Roy. “He really kept us in the game.”
The Rebels struck first with just over 14 minutes left in the second period due to a ricochet off a faceoff straight to the UNLV’s Jake Saxe, who snuck it just past Duran for his second goal of the season.
The scored remained 1-0 heading into the final period, but the Rebels struck again not even one minute back from intermission. The Rebels’ Jayson Dimizio took advantage of a rebound after a Nick Flanders shot fell in his lap for an easy goal.
The Lopes cut the deficit in half with 12:25 left thanks to Castor Mattos’ first career goal, but got no closer.
“We came out and allowed UNLV to win every race,” said Roy. “We need to continue to be hungrier and hungrier.”
Saturday: UNLV 4, GCU 2
The Lopes once again struggled on the offensive end of the ice in the early going on Saturday, only putting up three shots on goal in the first period.
“It all starts on the defensive end,” said Roy. “Once we fine-tune our defensive systems, we will be able to clear the puck better and allow for more time in our offensive zone.”
Though the Lopes allowed four goals in Game 2, Roy was once again pleased with his team’s goaltending – courtesy this time of Michael Barabash.
“Goaltending was great all weekend,” said Roy. “We didn’t make it easy on them, but Barabash played well and had a lot of key saves.”
The Lopes came back in the second period to erase a 2-0 deficit within the first three minutes. Lopes’ sophomore Declan Carter first took advantage of Trey Greene poking the puck past the UNLV goalie to set up Carter for an empty-netter in the first minute; then tied it two minutes later on a pass from Ryan Gil. The score remained knotted at 2-2 until midway through the third period when Saxe set up both Kane Toriumi, then Kirk Underwood within a three-minute stretch to put the game out of reach.
Despite coming home from the Silver State still seeking their first win of the season, the Lopes’ coach saw serious potential with his group.
“We have a deep roster,” said Roy. “When we get going, all four lines can really play well. We know things are going our way when we create offensive opportunities no matter who is on the ice.”
The Lopes are back in action on Friday, Oct. 11 and Saturday, Oct. 12 when they travel across town to Tempe to take on archrival Arizona State University.
“This weekend will be huge for us,” said Roy. “Win, lose or draw, we need to play our best game. Against these guys, we need to be fully prepared.”
Interested in joining GCU Ice Hockey? Contact the coach for the men’s ice hockey team to learn more!