GVSU women’s hockey set for CCWHA tournament

GVL / Courtesy - Sandy Tenwalde
Lauren Allen (31)

Sandy Tenwalde

GVL / Courtesy - Sandy Tenwalde Lauren Allen (31)

Josh Peick

After a national semifinal appearance in 2015, the Grand Valley State women’s hockey club is looking to make another deep playoff run. The Lakers (17-7) will face off against Davenport University in the first round of the Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association playoffs.

GVSU and Davenport faced off in a two-game series earlier in the month which resulted in a split. The Lakers took the first game 3-0 and lost the next game 3-2. In the first game, GVSU was successful by putting pucks on net and creating rebounding opportunities. The second game was much different.

“(In the second game) we struggled getting our offensive flow going,” said GVSU head coach Sean McKernan. “We generated a lot of shots but we didn’t have a lot of traffic (in front of the net).”

Much like the series against Davenport, in the second semester, the Lakers struggled to play at a high level on a consistent basis.

“This second half we had an up-and-down semester,” McKernan said. “We played really well one game and then (next game) took our foot off the gas and try to let our skill take over.”

The Lakers will go back to what was working in the first matchup with Davenport, which was getting pucks to the goaltender and crashing the net after the initial shot.

“We really need to just make sure we’re putting (the puck) on net with a purpose,” said freshman Téa Greca. “With a goalie like that, you have to focus more on the placement of your shot.”

The winner of the first round game will play second seed Adrian College in the second round, with a shot at the CCWHA title on the line. Winning the title earns a team an automatic bid into the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament. After the three regional tournament winners receive automatic bids, the final five spots are voted in based on the national rankings.

GVSU currently sits fourth in the nation. It’s a comfortable spot, but an early loss in the CCWHA playoffs may jeopardize a chance in the national tournament. McKernan is confident that this year’s team is primed for a deep playoff run similar to last year. In fact, he thinks this team has a chance to go farther.

“This year’s team has a little more skill and depth throughout the entire roster. It is just the matter of coming prepared mentally and executing on the ice,” McKernan said.

Depth is certainly a strength for the Lakers this season. From top to bottom, the Lakers have seen production from both upperclassmen and freshmen.

Greca leads the team in points and goals with 27 and 15, respectively. Her breakout campaign is one reason the Lakers have been so successful.

“I feel like I’ve always had this potential but I haven’t had the coaching or the teammates to put it all together until this year,” Greca said.

Taylor Lampar, another freshman, has the third-most goals on the team with 11, to go along with five assists. This production from the young players and the experience of the upperclassmen give the Lakers a real shot at a deep playoff run.

“We have a very strong team this year and we’re more than ready for another deep playoff run,” said captain Alexa Tenwalde. “We’ve already seen these opponents we’re facing in the playoffs, so we know specifically what we need to work on this week in practice to prepare ourselves for these matchups.”

The most important thing for GVSU will be to take it slowly. With all of the talent, it can be easy for the Lakers to look ahead to the next matchup. Focusing on the current task at hand will be crucial for the team’s success.

“The cliché is taking it a game at a time, but I like to break it down into a period at a time, if not a shift at a time,” McKernan said. “The biggest factor is our mentality going into games. Anybody can beat anyone on any given day. As long as we outwork them and we manage the puck well, the odds should be in our favor.”

The Lakers’ hopeful playoff run begins against Davenport University in Flint, Michigan on Feb. 19.