Reflection: Lanthorn sports writer Kellen Voss looks back on GVSU men's DII hockey season
As the month of February draws to a close, the ice has been cleaned and the skates have been hung up for the 2017-18 season for the Grand Valley State men’s Division II club hockey team.
The season ended much sooner than expected for the Lakers after they lost to Adrian 4-3 in overtime Saturday, Feb. 24, despite entering the game in the midst of a 15-game win streak.
It’s sad to see a hockey team with so much energy and potential exit the playoffs early, but don’t let that fool you. This was an elite hockey team that loved competition, and despite losing key contributors, the Lakers are still set up to make an even longer run next season.
I had the pleasure of covering this team all season for the Lanthorn, and it was one of the best experiences I have had this freshman year. Going to dozens of games at the Georgetown Ice Center, I could tell this team was passionate and loving every minute they got on the ice together.
It was always to pleasure to watch the Lakers play an elite level of college hockey seemingly every Friday and Saturday from late September through February. They played a very physical brand of hockey and were a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ice, but they also played strategically and with finesse on the offensive end to rack up goals.
With a regular-season record of 24-3-3, good enough for third place in the Central Division, the Lakers have much to be proud of this season. And they only got better as the year went along, heading into regionals with a 15-game win streak. At home, they posted an impressive 14-2-2 record, and they weren’t too shabby on the road, either, going 10-1-1 on other teams’ ice.
With this hockey season finished, it’s safe to assume that coach Mike Forbes and his staff are already getting ready for next season. The Lakers will have to find some new talent for next fall, as they are losing five seniors who have made a solid impact on this team.
GVSU has some big skates to fill on offense since they will lose two of their top scorers this past season, seniors Troy Marrett and Tommy Carey. Both seen as leaders on the squad, the duo combined for 29 goals and 53 assists this past regular season.
The Lakers will also have to replace Reede Burnett and Buck Maynard, two players who regularity started on the defensive end and led the stout wall that was the GVSU defense. Lucas Little, another elite defender who traveled with Marrett this past winter break to represent the U.S. in the inaugural World Cup of College Hockey Tournament, will also need to be replaced.
These players may be hard to replace all over the ice, but after suffering multiple injury issues all season, the roster proved to be deeper than expected. After they've had another year’s worth of training and practice, it should be exciting to see how the young talent develops.
There are lots of candidates on this year's team that could take care of the puck and lead the Lakers in scoring next season. Ryan Hein may be the front-runner, as he avoided the sophomore slump this past season, posting 13 goals and 12 assists in the regular season and scoring two of the team’s three goals in the overtime loss in regionals. Look to see Hein take the offensive reigns this season.
Hein isn’t the only one who could score next year, though. Freshmen German Samvel and Evan Newell made an impact this season as well, scoring a combined 19 goals and 11 assists for the Lakers.
The defense won’t be taking a step back next season, either, as underclassmen Nate Madigan and Thomas Luzynski proved they could hold their own in their defensive zones this past season.
It should be fascinating to watch the goaltending next season for the Lakers as well. Jared Maddock had a very solid season in the net, earning 17 wins and saving more than 93 percent of shots on goal this year. Transfer Dylan Knox could also prove to be crucial, as he went 5-0-0 in the five games he started after he joined the team second semester.
After this year’s early exit, it’s safe to say the Lakers still have some unfinished business and a fire in their bellies heading into next season. If they can use that fire to motivate themselves and establish good chemistry fast, watch out for the Lakers as they head back on the ice come September 2018.