Column: D2 hockey poised for playoff run
The Lakers haven't lost a game since Dec. 2
Entering their final weekend series with a record of 20-4-3, it’s time to reflect on the Grand Valley State Division II men’s club hockey team’s successful regular season before the playoff frenzy begins.
When I first joined the Lanthorn sports staff in early November, my first true assignment was accepting this team as my regular beat throughout the majority of the winter semester. At first, I’ll admit that I was not entirely excited because I’ve never been the biggest hockey fan to begin with. The only time I really put effort to watch hockey was when the Detroit Red Wings were in the playoffs, which thankfully was every season until this one (hopefully I’m wrong).
As I reflect while writing this, I have to thank this team for giving me an appreciation of the sport I thought I would never have. But more importantly, I have to thank this team for showing me what it’s like for a team to grow and come together as the season went on.
Although this team has a pretty exceptional record, it took a long journey to get where they are today. My first weekend covering this team was during a weekend series against Lindenwood where the Lakers split a two game series. It was really rough to watch as the team found more time in the penalty box than the ice and the offense was non-existent. It was not pretty hockey, and coach Mike Forbes agreed at the time.
“There were times when we looked like a team that didn’t care if they won or not,” Forbes said in a previous interview. “It doesn’t seem like the guys are having any fun.”
From that point on, the Lakers created three major goals to accomplish by the end of the season: First, to fix their penalty problem. Second, to improve their offense and shoot the puck more. Third (and most emphasized), to have more fun together as a team.
Out of nowhere, things finally clicked together. Passing to the open player became effortless, opposing goaltenders would leave games covered with bruises by the relentless Laker shooting. The ability for me to write a better story became much easier, as the team hasn’t lost a game since Dec. 2 against Miami of Ohio.
During this hot streak I’ve seen many different players step up for the Lakers. Senior and assistant captain Collin Finkhouse took his love for passing to a whole new level, tallying 32 assists and leading the team with 44 points (12 G, 32 A). Freshman Ryan Hein joined the season mid-way and is tied for second in total points for the Lakers with 23 (11 G, 12 A). Sophomore goalie Jared Maddock has been a rock defensively, proving himself to be reliable in net each game for the Lakers.
So with playoffs knocking at the Laker’s doorstep, the expectations for this team are incredibly high after not making the national tournament at all last year.
After watching this team grow and seen them play at their true potential, I can see this team find themselves deep into the national tournament. But as a firm believer in superstitions and the concept of jinxing, I don’t want to hop on the championship bandwagon and get ahead of myself.
By the end of the playoffs, I would not be surprised if the Lakers finished in the top three of teams in the country. The only thing standing in front of reaching that goal is themselves. When this team works together and unselfishly, it’s a beautiful thing.
The last chance to see this Lakers squad in regular season action before the playoffs begin is Friday, Feb. 17 against Davenport University at Georgetown Ice Center. I highly recommend it.