GVSU falls to Michigan in OT, takes third
Lakers will learn national tournament fate by Tuesday
The intensity rises, the passes are crisper, the play is faster and every goal counts. That’s playoff hockey.
Grand Valley State went 3-2 while squaring off against heavy competition in the 2015 Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association (CCWHA) Playoffs in Flint, Mich. GVSU earned a 2-0 win over Michigan State, dropped a 6-2 decision to Miami of Ohio, stayed alive with a 4-2 win over Adrian and another 2-0 triumph over MSU but ended the weekend in a 3-2 overtime loss to Michigan.
The Lakers started the tournament against MSU on Thursday in its first-round game. The first two periods were scoreless and back and forth, but GVSU's Allison Lowe put GVSU on the board when she knocked home her own rebound to give the Lakers a 1-0 lead in the third period.
GVSU tacked on its second goal when Lauren Iavasile scored on an empty netter with 27 seconds to play, giving the Lakers their first 2-0 victory over the Spartans.
“We knew going into the game it was going to be tough,” said forward Katie Danto. “Beating MSU on Thursday was huge. It set the pace for the rest of the weekend for us.”
On Friday, the Lakers took on the No. 1 team in the nation, Miami. The RedHawks got off to a hot start, scoring two goals on their first two shots of the game. Miami continued its assault, and the first period finished with the RedHawks on top, 3-0.
Miami controlled the rest of the game as well, skating off with the 6-2 victory. Corey Robison and Alex Brinkman scored for the Lakers.
“Their speed really caught us off guard," said co-head coach Sean McKernan. "I feel like we were able to match speed and play with them later in the game. Unfortunately, we were playing catch-up hockey, and that really wore us out.”
The loss against Miami meant GVSU had to square off against Adrian in an elimination game on Friday evening. The Lakers broke a scoreless tie just 18:44 into the first, however, as Stacey Mathieu found the back of the net. Kristin Iannuzzi struck next for GVSU in the second period.
Adrian responded with two goals in the middle of the second frame, and the 2-2 draw went into the second intermission. The Bulldogs outshot the Lakers 31-20 through two periods.
At 11:42 in the third period, Laker captain Alexa Tenwalde delivered.
Tenwalde found the twine on the powerplay to give GVSU a 3-2 lead, and it would prove to be the game-winning goal. Danto proceeded to put the puck in the back of the net on a wrist shot from the circle with 3:35 remaining, and GVSU skated off with a 4-2 win.
"It felt great scoring the game winning goal against Adrian to send them home from playoffs, but that was certainly due to the effort of the whole team," Tenwalde said.
On Saturday, the Lakers had to stave off elimination again in their sixth meeting with MSU of the 2014-15 campaign. With 2:09 remaining in the first period, Brinkman scored for the Lakers off of a rebound. Brinkman’s tally sent the Lakers into the first intermission with a slim lead. In the second period, Danto scored for the Lakers, expanding the lead to 2-0 in the team’s favor heading into the third period.
With 10:57 left in the final period of play, the sprinkler system in the stands broke, which flooded the stands and infiltrated the rink. Play was halted for about 30 minutes as the stands and rink were cleaned.
“The sprinklers going off during the second game against MSU was super weird,” Danto said. “It was a minor distraction, but it didn’t take away from our strong team play.”
Play resumed and GVSU was able to hold on and top MSU by the same score as Thursday's game, 2-0.
On Saturday night, GVSU and Michigan tangled on the ice in an elimination game with a trip to the CCWHA title bout on the line. After goals from Mathieu and Danto gave GVSU a 2-0 lead, the Wolverines cut the lead in half when Jennifer Cusmano scored in the second period.
Less than three minutes later, Cusmano scored again to knot things up, 2-2. At the end of the third period, following a barrage of shots by both teams and no goals, the game went to overtime.
Michigan’s Jessie Buckley scored the game winner on the man advantage 3:10 into the overtime period, winning the game for the Wolverines and knocking the Lakers out of the tournament.
"The loss to Michigan was tough but we also have to consider that it was our fifth game of the weekend and only their third," Tenwalde said. "We held them to a tight game all the way through overtime."
The Lakers will find out whether they made the national tournament by Tuesday after the coaches poll, community rankings and strength of schedule rankings pick the top eight teams in the land.
“We are playing some of our best hockey and peaking at the right time,” McKernan said. “It would feel great to go back to nationals for the first time in four years.”