GVSU women's hockey falls to Miami-Ohio in national championship series
The Lakers dropped two games in a best-of-three series
The Grand Valley State women’s club hockey team dropped both of their games against Miami- Ohio in the national championship series played in Columbus, Ohio. The Lakers fell 4-2 in game one Wednesday, March 15, and the Redhawks clinched the series win over the Lakers 2-1 Thursday, March 16.
The Redhawks would go on to win the ACHA National Title with a 4-1 win over Liberty Sunday, March 19.
Game one began with an early goal from the Redhawks before the Lakers netted two of their own from senior Allison Lowe and sophomore Taylor Lampar to capture a one goal advantage. However, Miami answered with two goals of their own and held the lead all the way until dropping in an empty netter in the final moments of the game to seal the victory.
“We competed well but in the third we had too many mistakes. They’re a talented team and they were able to punish us for it,” said GVSU coach Sean McKernan.
In the second game of the best-of-three series, GVSU once again fell behind by a goal but senior Karyn Schmaltz netted an equalizer shortly thereafter. After two periods the teams were knotted at one goal apiece until the Redhawks managed to get one past junior Laker goaltender Lauren Allen.
Miami managed to hold on from there as the Lakers ran out of time, ending their season just a few goals shy of a title.
“It was frustrating because I know that we could have beat them and just little mistakes that they capitalized on kind of sucked,” said senior forward Lowe. “In the end we worked hard and it made me feel better knowing that it wasn’t a total loss.”
As is the case with nearly every game, the Lakers were not perfect with their execution. Senior defender Corey Robison noted that puck movement and overall awareness were much improved from weeks past, but a couple of missed opportunities appeared to have cost them.
“The quality of our shots could have been improved and the number of shots (could have improved),” Robison said. “We didn’t take every shot we had and we should have because Miami’s goalie isn’t the best goalie I’ve seen in my life. We preached getting the puck to the net and we got some of our goals that way. We need those shots. We definitely could have improved on getting shots to the net.”
With Miami being a regular powerhouse in the sport, GVSU knew it had to prepare for a battle on the ice that could easily go either way.
The abnormally young Laker squad did not shy away from the challenge by playing aggressively and going hard on every play and, showing by the scores, they were nearly rewarded for their efforts.
“We knew we were facing a challenge with Miami. We knew they had a lot of skill up front,” McKernan said. “We didn’t sit back, we attacked the puck which we liked. They just took advantage of a few more mistakes than we made than we did. (Our goaltenders) were fantastic and overall we were able to take a lot out of this.”
Teammates and coaches alike recognized the efforts of the entire team, but especially appreciated the play of Allen, Lowe and sophomore Lampar, among others.
With such a young unit, the Lakers figure to take the experience gained from such a high level of competition faced down the stretch and take it into next season to improve and capture the last two wins that evaded them in 2017.
“Just trying to get a consistent effort each game. We were pretty young up front, so adjusting things like getting used to the offense will be big especially going into playoffs and nationals,” McKernan said. “It was a learning weekend and you hope you can build on it and prepare for the future.”
The Lakers’ youth seemed to cause the fresher faces to underestimate the magnitude and legitimacy of the stage they would soon be playing on – a mindset that can very much hinder a team early.
“When we got there you could see the look on their faces like, this is real, this is top of the line,” Robison said. “I think from the bus ride home when we lost those games that there was a different energy and a realization for what we can do next year. It was like a switch had flipped and they were ready for next year already.”