GVSU club roller hockey falls in Missouri
Laker roller hockey stumbles in second round of national tournament
Each game was crucial. Each game was as important as the last. Each game on the roller hockey rink was played for the seniors.
The Grand Valley State roller hockey club traveled to Independence, Mo. from Apr. 8-12 to compete in the 2015 National Collegiate Roller Hockey Championships.
GVSU fought through pool play, finishing with a 1-1-1 record, before falling in the second round of the tournament to Cal Poly. The Lakers finished with a 22-12 record overall following the tournament.
Senior goalie Alex Stutzky and forward Brendan Ryan, along with junior Dom Zuelch, led the way for the Lakers in Missouri at the Independence Events Center.
GVSU squared off against Florida Gulf Coast, Arizona State and Rhode Island to start off play in Pool D. FGCU topped the Lakers 7-6 in overtime, and the Lakers followed up the nail-biting defeat with a tough one-goal loss to the Sun Devils 2-1. The Lakers finished up pool play the next day against Rhode Island with a convincing 6-1 victory.
Head coach Nick Dow saw the importance of pool play for his team and made changes when necessary.
“We needed to place as high as we could in the pool in order to get the best draw for the brackets,” Dow said. “All of the games were key games for us. We played one game at a time and reviewed each game afterword and made adjustments as needed.”
Assistant coach Isaac Washburn stepped up his duties for the team by scouting out the next opponent to help the Lakers gain an edge in any way possible. GVSU was able to get things rolling as it dried off from pool play and jumped into bracket play.
“(Washburn) told us how to beat teams, and that really helped us,” Zuelch said. “We were a little slow in first game, but then we started to roll and got into a groove.”
The Lakers started off bracket play against a pesky Long Beach State squad, scrapping out a 2-1 victory over the California-based team.
“Our play against LBSU carried over from pool play, and it felt good to battle against them,” Zuelch said. “They are a great team from Cali, and we knew we would have to work hard and grind out a win.”
Dow was also impressed with the way the Lakers fought off Long Beach State.
“The best game the guys played was the Long Beach State game,” he said. “It was the best game the guys have played all year. They stuck to the game plan and grinded out a close game.”
In the second round, GVSU fell 6-4 to another Golden State-based team in Cal Poly. The Lakers played the Mustangs close, but couldn’t hold on to an early two-goal lead in a loss hindered by penalties.
Seniors Stutzky and Ryan were playing in their last tournament for GVSU. In their last game against Cal Poly, the senior leadership was plain to see.
“They really helped other players buy into focus and put a stick to it, so we really played for our seniors,” Zuelch said. “We fell short of the goal for Brendan and Alex. They preached their experience and know what it takes to get guys going.”
Despite falling short of their goal of a national championship, the Laker squad still managed to gain key experience. Dow was proud of the team, but he is already looking to next year.
“I was very happy with the way the team played at nationals. Every game, the team improved and made adjustments, which made us a dangerous team to play,” he said. “We were a bounce or two away from going to the next round but that’s how the game works. I have higher expectations for next year.”