Club hockey bounces back over the weekend

Courtesy / DII Club Hockey

Courtesy / DII Club Hockey

Adam Knorr

Through 11 games last season, the Grand Valley State University club men’s Division II hockey team was in the midst of an 11-game win streak, sporting a 9-1-1 record and looking nearly unstoppable. The winds of change have hit the Lakers this year, as they held a subpar 4-5-1 season score going into this weekend’s doubleheader against perennial powerhouse Ferris State University.

GVSU appeared to be in old form against the archrival Bulldogs as it steamrolled its way to an 8-0 victory in Big Rapids to lift the record up to the .500 mark for the first time in the 2013-2014 campaign. Senior goaltender Scott Tiefenthal led the way for the Lakers with a 16-save effort in his first shutout of the year.

“(Tiefenthal) played great and he made the saves when he had to,” junior left wing Matt Smartt said. “I thought we played really well and put together a complete game… Our goal was to keep moving forward, not have any setbacks, to compete well, and get our goalie the shutout.”

GVSU showcased a relentless forecheck that aided in Tiefenthal’s shutout, as the Lakers were able to continually get the puck deep in the Bulldog zone as per the game plan of head coach Mike Forbes. The Lakers chipped the puck into the corner time and time again, forcing the Ferris State defensemen to turn their backs while the Lakers flooded the zone with speed.

As GVSU knows, the best defense is a good offense, and that proved to be true Friday night as the constant Laker pressure lead to a massive 58-16 difference in the shot department.

Smartt kicked off the route with an early goal, and the rest of the Lakers followed suit, taking a 3-0 lead into the locker room upon the sound of the first period horn.

GVSU’s play faltered during the second period, but not enough for Ferris State to take advantage, as the Lakers tallied two more scores to hold on to a commanding lead heading into the final period of the game. GVSU duplicated its first-period production in the final stages of the night, knocking home three more goals en route to the GVSU-friendly final score of 8-0.

Despite its slow start to the season, the team believes it’s just a matter of time before things start to click and flow smoothly, and it anticipates that this weekend’s performance will kick-start yet another strong season.

“We’re a team that’s finding themselves right now,” Forbes said. “We’ve got a lot of good individual talent, and we’re just trying to find the right mix of culture and habits for out time, and sometimes it takes time. We could easily be 10-1 right now… We’re good enough. All teams find themselves at different paces.”

The Lakers put together a strong team effort in one of their most statistically impressive outputs of the season, as the final score sheet saw six different GVSU skaters with markers. In addition to Smartt’s early goal, senior forward Chad Wilhelm and sophomore center Alex Ostrowski each scored two, joined by a trio of juniors—Tyler Stoller, Jake Endicott and Ian Hamilton—who each found the back of the net once on the evening.

While the final score and the general flow of the game were cooperative with the Lakers, they believe that the game could have tilted even more in their favor were it not for a temporary let-down in the middle stages of the contest. Sandwiching the disappointing second period, however, were two stages of constant pressure and flowing play that lead to the final outcome.

“It took us a little bit of time to click this year… We had a slow start, but after last weekend, we got our lines up and running,” Wilhelm said. “I think we’ll keep running and gunning on Saturday and do a lot of the same things we did well tonight.”

On Saturday night, the Lakers played host to Ferris State in the second game of the weekend doubleheader.

GVSU’s stellar play from Friday night carried over into the first period as the Lakers opened up an early 2-0 lead, creating a 10-goal unanswered stretch over their last four periods. The Bulldogs finally snapped their drought with a second-period goal to draw within one, but GVSU put any comeback hopes to rest with two late third-period goals to complete the weekend sweep and continue improving its escalating record.

Freshman goalie Dom Juncaj, filling in for Tiefenthal, continued the hot streak the Laker netminders have been riding, making 23 saves in a standout performance of his own. GVSU has only allowed four goals in its past three games—all of which it’s won—parlaying the advantage into its longest win streak of the season.

Junior forward Brad Wilhelm led the Lakers offensively with two goals and was joined by freshman defenseman Reede Burnette and Ostrowski, who each netted one of their own.

“We played very well and kept the puck in their zone for a lot of the game,” Chad Wilhem said. “We hurt ourselves by not capitalizing on the chances when we got them, but I think we still played a great game.”

[email protected]