GVSU men's DIII club hockey prepares for hopeful Nationals run
The Grand Valley State men’s Division III club hockey team finished its regular season this past weekend after winning its final home series against Adrian College 8-6 and 3-2.
These wins brought the Lakers' record up to a successful 27-7 overall on the regular season, setting them up to capture a high seed in the upcoming regional playoffs.
“We’re ranked a little higher coming in this year," said GVSU captain Alex Bjork. "Normally, we come in as a five or a six seed, putting us right in the middle. This year, we are probably going to be the three seed, so we are hoping to give ourselves a better path to Nationals.”
Four teams will move on from the regional bracket into the national bracket. In order for the Lakers to move to the next round, they must win both of their regional games. Head coach Charlie Link knows that the teams they are projected to play are much like themselves, but he believes he has the key on how they can separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
“There are a lot of teams who are very equal, and it just comes down to who wants it more in the playoffs,” Link said.
One area where this team has thrived this year is in close games. The team played in 12 games over the course of the regular season that were decided by one goal in regulation or overtime. Furthermore, the team performed very well when their games went into overtime, winning all five of those contests.
The seniors on this team have been in this position before, so they know what they need to do to get past regionals and into the National Tournament, and they can pass that down to the younger players on the team.
“The older guys are using previous years as motivation, and we are trying to push the younger guys to see the bigger picture,” Bjork said. “Time is going to fly, and they’ll be seniors and wish they had a shot at a ring. Younger guys are starting to catch on to the reality that this a special team, and this is a unit we can do it with.”
Those previous years that Bjork alluded to did not end well for the Lakers as they were one win away from moving on to nationals but just couldn’t manage to do it.
Coach Link talked about some players who have stepped up for the team and made a big impact.
“Our freshmen have stepped up and given us more depth," Link said. "Freshman year is always a tough year, and they have managed to come in and fulfill the roles that we needed them to."
Bjork and the rest of the team have high expectations for a postseason run.
“We expect to end up in the National Tournament in Columbus," Bjork said. "The past few years we’ve come up one game short, and I think a lot of guys remember that feeling and don’t want that feeling again."
Although the team does not know their seeding quite yet, the Regional Tournament will begin Friday, Feb. 16. The locations of those contests are TBD.