Club hockey team competes in outdoor game

Adam Knorr

The Grand Valley State University women’s club ice hockey team’s opportunity to spark some late-season momentum against Robert Morris University had a frosty twist.

In the spirit of hockey’s Midwest roots, the pair of long-time rivals played its second game of the weekend series on an outdoor ice surface as part of the Winter Frost Face-off in Rosemont, Ill.

“The outdoor game was an amazing experience,” GVSU sophomore Kendra Myers said. “It was indescribable really. The atmosphere was great, and being able to get a chance to play outdoors like that was something we were all thankful for.”

However, GVSU’s play continued to mimic the weather conditions in the two-game set.

In game one, RMU jumped out to a 1-0 lead by scoring the icebreaker goal with seven minutes left in the first period. Two minutes later, GVSU recorded its first shot of the game, and soon after, freshman Sara Villani punched the puck home to tie the game at 1-1.

RMU took the lead back early in the second, but GVSU found a way to answer yet again, this time on a breakaway rocket from freshman Molly Matson.

The offense froze there for the Lakers, while RMU was just beginning to heat up.

The Eagle offense continued to pepper GVSU goaltender Karen Sloboda with shot after shot and eventually grabbed a commanding 6-2 lead by the end of the second period.

The third period provided no relief for Sloboda, as RMU banged home two more markers to take the weekend’s first tilt 8-2.

The Lakers showed more promise in the encore performance on Saturday on the outdoor rink at MB Financial Plaza, but the end result was still the same.

The game was RMU’s to lose from the start of the 10 a.m. puck drop. The Eagles dominated play in the first but, despite holding a 19-5 advantage in shots, led just 1-0 at the end of the first period thanks to 18 saves by Sloboda.

The score got worse before it got better for GVSU.

The relentless Eagle attack paid off with back-to-back tallies midway through the second period, which stretched the lead to three for the home team.

The third period brought some redemption for the Lakers, as Myers found the back of the net before junior captain Alexa Tenwalde fired a shot that slid through the wickets of Eagle netminder Anna Salvaggio.

The comeback ended there, though, as RMU prevailed in the outdoor matchup 4-2.

“We began to let down in the second period,” GVSU junior Jordyn Moore said. “The slump was caused by playing too passively in our zone. Once we gave them control, they capitalized on a few key opportunities and scored.

“Going forward from here, it takes each and every girl committing to play an entire 60 minutes.”

The team has struggled to regain hold of the success that came at the beginning of the year and has lost six of eight games in the second half of its 2013-2014 campaign.

However, the team’s demeanor remains one of success despite the skid.

“If we play up to our capabilities and we don’t play with fear of making a mistake, we can beat anybody,” head coach Sean McKernan said. “When it comes down to Xs and Os, one or two shifts are going to make the difference in the game. As long as we’re competing at our highest capability, I like our chances against anyone we face.”

GVSU (12-10-1) will have one last chance to pick up some steam heading into the postseason against Colorado State University at home on Friday at 7 p.m.