GVSU Division II hockey bounced in ACHA semifinals
Loss marks the end of careers for eight Lakers
The Grand Valley State Division II men’s hockey club fell short in the hopes of bringing home a national championship. GVSU (30-5-1) lost to Florida Gulf Coast, the eventual national champions, in the ACHA Division II National Championship semifinals.
After a thrilling overtime victory in the final round of pool play to send GVSU to the semifinals, the Lakers were unable to carry momentum into the first period of the game against FGCU.
“I think we were emotionally and physically spent,” Forbes said. “We didn’t do a really good job managing our emotional and physical resources during pool play.
“There were a lot of highs and lows, and I think the quick turnaround for game four just left us flat.”
In the first period, FGCU came out firing. The Eagles’ potent offense put the pressure on GVSU goaltender Jiri Aberle, who saw 18 shots in the period. The Eagles scored two goals in the first 12 minutes of play, one coming from forward Mike Chemello. Chemello is one of five players on FGCU’s active roster with more than 50 points this season.
In desperate need of a goal, the Lakers’ power play unit answered with two minutes left in the period. Junior Collin Finkhouse netted a wrist shot over the goalie’s left shoulder to keep the Lakers within striking distance.
In the second period, GVSU found new life. The Lakers played a more aggressive brand of hockey, establishing a forecheck and creating scoring opportunities. Senior Anthony Russo converted on a rebound after a shot attempt from forward Michael Bishop with five minutes left in the period to tie the game at 2-2.
It looked like the two teams would head into the locker room tied after two periods, but FGCU stunned the Lakers with a rebound goal of its own with four seconds left in the period. Goals in the first and last minute of a period are killers, and GVSU was never able to recover.
The Eagles kept the pressure on, scoring two goals in a minute-and-a-half window midway through the third period. The Lakers then shifted into full attack mode but were unable to find the back of the net.
The Lakers' final push included a Reede Burnett wrist shot that ricocheted off of the crossbar, and a disallowed goal because of a deflection from a high stick. A more fortunate bounce and a no-call from the referee and the Lakers could have been down a goal with three minutes left in the game. The Lakers were unable to convert, however, and headed home early.
The loss not only marks the end of the 2015-16 season, but also the end of an era for GVSU hockey. The team had eight seniors on the team – seniors who have been important pieces of the program for years.
“There are several players that have been with me for five years and we’ve had a pretty good run,” Forbes said. “Obviously there is some emotion that comes with that.”
The Lakers weren’t able to bring home a national championship, but anyone who watched the team play saw a team that fully embodies the meaning of a team on and off the ice. They played the systems on the ice, and formed bonds off the ice. The bonds that are formed on a team are often overlooked in the realm of sports, but can be important than any piece of hardware granted at the end of the season.
“The memories made on road trips, in the locker room, and with this group of guys is what will stick with me,” said team captain Zac Strain.
“It would have been nice to win it all, but I have made relationships that will last a lifetime.”