Lakers come up short in ACHAs

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

Abbey Haji-Sheikh

The Grand Valley State men’s hockey team recovered with grace this past weekend after a discouraging loss in the ACHA Division II National Championship. 

GVSU started off with a 3-2 overtime triumph over Liberty, but was held back by a devastating 6-5 overtime loss to New York University. The Lakers did not advance past pool play, thus shutting the door on their dream of being crowned national champions.

Though disappointed, the Lakers didn’t let the loss stop them from leaving everything out on the ice while battling Northern Arizona for national ranking on Sunday afternoon. After losing an important game in the tournament, the Lakers turned to their seniors for the motivation they needed to play.

“It’s really hard. In this situation they’re not playing for anyone but themselves, so you have to remind them that there’s five seniors on the ice, and you play for them,” said head coach Mike Forbes. “You play for the guy sitting next to you, you play for the school, you play for a national ranking.”

The team dominated puck possession and fired on every opportunity against NAU’s goalie, who faced 49 shots. As a result, GVSU had the upper hand throughout the whole game, coming out on top, 7-2.

The win, though bittersweet, was still a good showing of GVSU’s progress since last year’s tournament, where NAU put “quite a physical beating” on the team, recalled Forbes.

“We came out on the better side of it this year, I think we showed them that we were the better skilled team and I think that was in everybody’s memory this year,” Forbes said. “That put a couple extra crosschecks in there this year.”

Between crosschecks, major penalties, player ejections and a black eye, the physicality of the game didn’t hold a candle to the talent shown by GVSU, who outdid NAU in both intensity and perseverance.

Producing offense out of both corners and showing deep puck support in the defensive zone, the Lakers didn’t give NAU many chances to find their net. GVSU couldn’t stop scoring.

“We went out and we got the win, we executed our game plan, we definitely didn’t want to go out losing like we did last year,” said senior Jacob Endicott. “We knew we had to come out with the win for sure.”

Endicott, in his last game as a Laker, robbed the puck from NAU’s goal setup and sniped it past two defenders for GVSU’s first goal, a top-shelf shorthanded beauty.

Several more striking goals and two periods later, the Lakers finished their impressive 25-7-2 season with the well-earned win against NAU.

“We were excited to win for our seniors, but it still wasn’t the outcome we wanted coming into nationals,” said sophomore Collin Finkhouse. “Our main goal was to win the championship, but overall it was a good season. We won a lot of games, didn’t lose very many, and had a lot of fun doing it.”

“It’s been a success,” said Forbes of his sixth season as head coach. “Any time you have the kind of record that we have, that’s pretty good. It’s not about the wins and losses, it’s about what you learn and the leadership qualities the players learn, and from that standpoint, it was a very positive season.”