GVSU Division III hockey splits with Michigan State

GVL / Emily Frye       
The Grand Valley State University D3 Hockey team celebrates the game winning goal in overtime against Saginaw Valley State University on Nov. 7th.

GVL / Emily Frye The Grand Valley State University D3 Hockey team celebrates the game winning goal in overtime against Saginaw Valley State University on Nov. 7th.

Josh Peick

The Grand Valley State Division III men’s hockey club split a weekend series against in-state rival Michigan State. The Lakers won Friday night’s matchup 6-5 at MSU, and lost 2-1 Saturday on home ice.

In game one action, the Lakers dug themselves into a hole, going down by three goals in the second period. After a Spartan goal made the score 5-2, the Lakers started to hoist themselves back up to the surface.

GVSU scored three straight goals, including a short-handed goal, to tie the game at 5-5. With less than two minutes of regulation time remaining, forward Eric White netted the game-winning goal. After a scrum in the corner, senior Zach Nash shot the puck on net, where White was waiting for a rebound off of the goalie. The puck found White’s stick and he finished the goal.

In Saturday afternoon’s game, both teams played a physical brand of hockey from the moment the puck hit the ice. The two teams amassed 13 combined penalties, including a few offsetting roughing penalties for scuffling after the whistle.

In the first period, the Lakers killed off two penalties to keep the game scoreless. Goaltender Jack Lindsay made a few big saves, stopping one breakaway after an MSU forward split the GVSU defense.

“We weren’t getting enough shots (in the first period),” said junior Tyler Stoller. “We knew the goalie was giving up a lot of rebounds, we just didn’t capitalize.”

The GVSU offense didn’t keep quiet for long. The Lakers came out firing in the second period. After an early Spartan penalty, Stoller buried a power-play goal on a wrist shot from the right wing.

“I figured no one is shooting it, so I just brought (the puck) to the front of the net and took a shot and it went in,” Stoller said.

The Lakers weren’t done shooting after the first goal. GVSU totaled 25 shots in the second period, but was only able to find the back of the net once. The Spartans matched the intensity and scored a goal in 4-on-4 play after offsetting penalties. MSU found real estate behind the GVSU net and scored on a one-timer right in front of the goal to tie it at 1-1.

In the third period, GVSU couldn’t find any offense. The Lakers spent almost half of the period on the penalty kill, leaving the offense little time to find any momentum.

With six minutes left to play, the Spartans scored on a breakaway opportunity off a puck that ricocheted off of a skate in perfect position for an MSU forward to take the puck up ice.

GVSU pulled Lindsay with 1:15 left in the game for a sixth attacker, but the clock ran down to zero before the Lakers could tie the game up.

Although GVSU lost, head coach Charlie Link was pleased with his team’s performance in game two.

“We played a lot better today than we did last night,” Link said. “We had a lot of shots in the second period but the (MSU) goalie stoned us.”

In reality, a split against MSU does not affect the Lakers chances at the playoffs. GVSU is currently ranked fifth in the north region, with the first two teams receiving automatic bids to the national tournament. If the Lakers were to split each series the rest of the season, they would make the playoffs, but would still need to advance through regional play to make the national tournament.

GVSU’s next two series will be the determining factor on whether it receives an automatic bid. The Lakers will face off against Hope, the fourth-ranked team, on Jan. 15 and 16 in a home-and-away series. The next weekend, the Lakers will play Aquinas College in another home-and-away series. With sweeps in both series, the chance of a GVSU automatic bid becomes much greater.