GVSU Division II hockey advances to national semis
Burnett nets game-winning goal as Lakers edge New York in overtime
After three periods of play in the last game of pool play, the Grand Valley State Division II men’s hockey club was headed into an overtime period to determine who would advance to the ACHA Division II National Championship semifinals.
The Lakers entered the offensive zone up the left boards with just under six minutes to play in the period. Forward Mitch Claggett delayed with the puck near the blue line and found the stick of defenseman Reede Burnett, who was cutting through the slot. Burnett gathered the puck with only the goalie to beat and roofed a backhand shot above the goalie’s pad and under his glove for the game-winning goal. The team piled on Burnett in the corner of the ice, celebrating the national semifinal berth.
This is the Lakers first semifinal berth since 2013. GVSU finished ninth in 2014 and fell just short in 2015 with a fifth place finish.
The Lakers finished pool play with a thrilling 4-3 overtime winner over New York, but dominated the other two games. GVSU opened the tournament with a 6-1 victory over Utah State, and followed that with a 7-2 win over Penn State. The tournament is taking place in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
In the tournament opener, GVSU’s Ian Hamilton initiated the scoring with an unassisted goal in the first 10 minutes of action. After Utah State tied the game minutes later, the Lakers finished the period with a power play goal from Burnett.
After the first intermission, it was all Lakers. GVSU scored one goal in the second period and three in the third to secure the 6-1 victory.
The GVSU defense stymied the Aggie offense. Goaltender Jiri Aberle saw only 21 shots, compared to the Lakers’ offense, which fired off 69 shots throughout the game.
“Our forecheck, we established that early and got a lot of good scoring opportunities,” said GVSU head coach Mike Forbes.
After a four-week span of not playing any games, the Lakers had no rust in the first game. Forbes and team captain Zachary Strain attested that to the hard work put in at practices during the four-week hiatus.
“It feels like we haven’t lost a step from when we left off, which can probably be attributed to our hard work in practice,” Strain said.
“The last few practices, we looked sharp,” Forbes said. “You never know going into day one how you are going to look.”
The Lakers followed up a dominating first win with an equally impressive performance in the second game. After a scoreless first period, the floodgates opened for the Lakers’ offense.
GVSU scored three goals in the second period and four in the third to secure a 7-2 victory. The seven goals from the offense were more than enough for freshman goaltender Jared Maddock. The Lakers are continuing with a two-goaltender system in the tournament, as they have all season. With the possibility of games five straight days, depth at the goaltender position is a real advantage.
“The reality is that you won’t have one goaltender play five games in five days,” Forbes said. “It’s a real tough assignment, so we had to find a place to rotate goaltenders and it worked out well (in game two).”
In the final game of pool play, with Aberle back in net, the Lakers jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period against New York, the defending national champions. GVSU continued to apply the pressure in the second with each team scoring a goal apiece.
In the third period, the Lakers were caught playing on their heels. The Bobcats took advantage of the passive play and scored two goals to send the game into overtime, but the comeback would fall short with Burnett netting the game winner in overtime.
The Lakers will move on to play in the national semifinals against Florida Gulf Coast on March 21 at noon.