GVSU women’s hockey preps for second half of season

Senior Hilary Daniels (9) competes against Adrian College at Georgetown Ice Arena Nov. 13, 2015.

Kasey Garvelink

Senior Hilary Daniels (9) competes against Adrian College at Georgetown Ice Arena Nov. 13, 2015.

Alex Eisen

By focusing on one shift at a time, it’s been a complete team effort for the Grand Valley State women’s hockey club as it strives to make another deep postseason run after reaching the national semifinals a year ago.

The Lakers have endured the more demanding section of their schedule and are poised for a strong second half of the season after a satisfying 12-4 record during the fall semester.

GVSU is ranked fourth in the most recent American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I poll and is positioned in third place in its conference, currently sitting two points behind No. 2 Adrian College and trailing No. 3 Miami University by a single point.

“In every game there was challenges, but we have had players step up,” said head coach Sean McKernan. “What’s really great is that it’s been a different player every game. We are not relying on one line or one player to pull all the weight. Any given day we can have a different player be the No. 1 star for the game.”

To put this balanced productivity into perspective, GVSU had 10 players finish the 2014-15 regular season with eight or more points. This season, going into the winter semester with eight games remaining before playoffs, nine players have reached or surpassed the eight point plateau with two more players holding on seven points.

Additionally, 10 of the 18 players who have played in at least half of GVSU’s games have scored four or more goals.

“We have a lot of depth and a lot skill, it’s going to make us a very dangerous team heading into the playoffs and hopefully nationals,” McKernan said. “Our staple has always been that we’ve been one of the hardest-working teams in our league and in the nation. That’s why teams don’t want to play us because we play them so hard for 60 minutes.

“This year, we have added the skill, so we hope that carries out. We always say you want to work smarter and not harder, but sometimes the hard work is what provides the opportunities to be successful out on the ice.”

The Lakers’ potent offense has been spearheaded by freshman Tea Greca who, despite missing two games due to injury, leads the team in scoring with 10 goals and nine assists. Half of Greca’s scoring has come on the penalty kill, as her five short-handed goals rank best in the ACHA.

Senior Stacey Mathieu and freshman Taylor Lampar each have hit the back of the net seven times this season, while senior Hilary Daniels has six goals to go with seven assists for the second-most points on the team behind Greca.

“There is a lot of inner competition, so everybody is pushing and motivating each other,” Daniels said. “We have really good forward power with freshmen coming in and filling in a lot of important roles that we had lost last year.”

The Lakers will be adding even more firepower to the lineup as they welcome back senior forward Kendra Myers, who was sidelined during the fall semester due to academic eligibility. Last season she was tied for third on the team in points, scoring five goals and racking up eight assists.

Senior captain Alexa Tenwalde anchors a stout Laker defense that has conceded a respectable 2.06 goals against average per game, and has the best penalty kill in the conference, operating at an imposing 94.4 percent clip.

“Everyone is playing really well together, it’s nothing like I have ever seen before,” Tenwalde said. “We have such a strong senior class right now and it’s complementing probably our strongest freshman class.”

Likewise protecting the blue line, junior Cory Robinson leads the Laker defenders offensively with 10 points (four goals and six assists) and freshman Sally Hoerr was named conference defender of the month for December, having notched eight assists on the season.

Last, but certainly not least, the battle between the pipes has emerged three quality goaltenders all vying for the starting role. Junior Taylor Watson, sophomore Lauren Allen and freshman Morgan Lang all have won at least three games and bolstered a save percentage above .900.

GVSU now gears up for what looks to be the “easier” part of its schedule with all the teams left to face ranked significantly lower than GVSU nationally. But, the Lakers are keenly aware that nothing is going to be given to them, everything has to be earned.

“The pressure is on us now,” Daniels said. “We have to keep that high compete level and keep our mental game in check. We can’t think about our opponent, we have to think about what we want to do and keep each other motivated.”

The Lakers return to the ice on Jan. 15 and 16 for a double-header against Robert Morris University (IL) in Chicago. The conference tournament will be held in mid-February and the national ACHA tournament for the top eight teams in the country will take place the following month in Kalamazoo, Michigan.