GVSU finishes roller-coaster tourney in third place

GVL / Archive
Junior Jacob Endicott

GVL / Archive Junior Jacob Endicott

Adam Knorr

After an uncharacteristically slow start to the season, the Grand Valley State University men’s club hockey team has turned things around.

Through October, GVSU was still finding its flow as a team, clawing their way to a 4-3-1 record.

Christmas came early for the Lakers, however, as they dominated play throughout most of November, posting a 5-1 record in the weeks leading up to Great Lakes Showcase Hockey Tournament tournament over Thanksgiving weekend.

The table was set at the perfect time for the Lakers, who had an opportunity to feast on the competition in the midst of the best hockey they’ve been playing all season.

GVSU opened the weekend on Friday against the University of Toledo and came into the tournament with a target on its back after winning the tournament in 2012. GVSU came out with the same vigor they’d shown in November, grinding their way to a slim 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.

Toledo flipped the script in the second as they scored the lone goal of the period to knot the contest at 2-2, a score that would hold through regulation following goose eggs by both teams in the third. Following another scoreless period – this one in overtime – the deadlocked teams took things to a shootout.

Following two stops from GVSU senior goalie Scott Tiefenthal and a pair of empty efforts from Laker shooters, junior forward Matt Smartt snuck a shot through the wickets of Rocket goaltender Zacary Cherney for the only goal of the shootout, giving GVSU a 3-2 victory.

The prize for the first-round win was a trip to the tournament semifinals to take on Eastern Michigan University, an ACHA Division 1 opponent, on Saturday.

EMU had a slightly easier time than GVSU in their tournament opener, shredding Saginaw Valley State University to the tune of a 7-0 win.

The game opened on a rough note for the Lakers as junior forward Zac Strain was whistled for a boarding major just two minutes into the contest.

The Eagles capitalized three times during the five-minute power play, taking a commanding lead before the Lakers had time to test the ice. EMU continued to press and took a 5-1 lead into the second period until the Lakers made their move.

GVSU ripped the twine three unanswered times in the second to cut the Eagle lead to 5-4, and eventually tied the game at 5-5 in the third. EMU regained its lead late, however, scoring two unanswered goals to finally win the roller-coaster matchup 7-6.

“I think Saturday’s game was a combination of not being ready to play and having them score three goals right off the bat,” senior forward Chad Wilhelm said. “It was a great character builder for us to come back throughout the game.”

The semifinal loss dropped the Lakers into the third-place game, a Sunday afternoon tilt against Western Michigan University, another Division 1 squad.

GVSU saved its best for last, walloping the Broncos 5-1 to finish the weekend with a winning record.

The Lakers bombarded the WMU goaltender with 48 shots through two periods, following head coach Mike Forbes’ philosophy of simply getting pucks to the net.

Smartt opened the scoring in the second period for the Lakers and was later joined by sophomore center Alex Ostrowski, junior center Tyler Stoller, Strain and freshman center DJ Duckworth.

All five scored in the same period which quickly put the game out of reach for the Broncos.

The spread-out scoring is a testament to the depth of GVSU’s offense – a smooth-flowing unit with weapons on every line.

Meanwhile, Tiefenthal picked up the win for the Lakers, his second of the weekend.

“I thought we played a lot better tonight,” Smartt said. “It was probably our best game of the weekend. We started off on time, scored five in the second and had a good third. Our best success comes when the forecheck is rolling, and it was tonight.”

GVSU, which came into the weekend ranked second in the Central Conference, performed admirably against the Division 1 competition but the lone loss from the weekend came with a price.

“Every game is important,” Forbes said. “Even though Eastern Michigan is Division 1, it will still count in our rankings. It’s just hard to know how the ranking committee will view it. If we win that game, there’s never any question.”

GVSU (11-5-1) plays next on Friday at Miami University (Ohio).

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