GVSU snaps streak of title game appearances
The Grand Valley State University men’s club hockey team has been a titan at the ACHA Division II National Championships with appearances in the title game in each of the past three seasons. Hopes and expectations were high once again this year for the Lakers, but it’s March, and the madness isn’t confined to college basketball.
GVSU dropped from the ranks of 2014 contenders in Boston over the weekend and, after falling victim to a slow start, the top-seeded Lakers went 1-1-0-1 and failed to make it out of pool play for the first time since 2010.
“This was a win-or-bust season,” senior captain Nick Heinrich said. “The guys played their hearts out and left nothing on the ice — we just didn’t finish the job.”
The Lakers began their postseason on Friday against Liberty University for their first of three games in three days.
The score was 2-2 with 4:35 remaining in overtime when Liberty senior Brad Docksteader shot a puck that deflected off goaltender Scott Tiefenthal’s stick and across the goal line to send the No. 1 seed to an early loss.
The Lakers bombarded Liberty with 60 total shots but failed to capitalize on their opportunities. GVSU head coach Mike Forbes said the six-week layoff before the tournament was a factor.
“Rust. That’s exactly what it was,” Forbes said. “We played fine. We dominated the game and had great opportunities, we just couldn’t finish.”
GVSU opened the scoring as sophomore Tyler Stoller found the back of the net for the only goal of the opening frame.
The lone goal almost held through to the third period, but Liberty’s Nat Arbour scored with 1:34 remaining in the second period to tie the game at 1-1. Exactly one minute later, sophomore Jake Endicott scored, giving the Lakers a one-goal advantage going into the third period.
The lead was brief, however, as Paul Inges tied the game up just 18 seconds into the third stanza. Play went back-and-forth for the remainder of regulation, but the Lakers toppled with Docksteader’s dagger.
GVSU bounced back on Saturday, however, and dictated the flow throughout in a 5-2 win over the University of New Hampshire.
UNH scored a shorthanded goal to take a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the first period, but the seemingly unfazed Lakers scored the next five goals of the game.
“We were ready to play,” said junior forward Brad Wilhelm, who scored two goals in the victory. “We had our backs against the wall and knew we had to win.
“Everyone came to play today and never quit. When we all show up ready to battle, we can be the best team out there.”
Still, the Lakers needed some help to advance to the semifinals as Liberty also notched a victory in its second game. If GVSU won, and Liberty lost to UNH, the Lakers could move on, provided they held the lead in the goals against tiebreaker.
The tiebreaker was rendered unnecessary.
GVSU was tied 1-1 against Northern Arizona University on Sunday late in the first period, but the Ice Jacks netted a goal with 3.1 seconds left to take a slim 2-1 lead into the locker room.
The Lakers scored to cut the lead to one early in the third, but the floodgates opened from there.
Some chippy play led to power play opportunities for the Ice Jacks, and a 4-2 lead turned into 5-2, and, after ejections from both teams, NAU put home one more to take its only win of the tournament 6-2.
The season and the impressive three-year streak both came to a screeching halt with the sound of the final horn.