New goalie starts 2-0 for GVSU hockey club

Abbey Haji-Sheikh

All the way over in Baltimore, Md., and then again in East Lansing, Mich., Spencer Craig got his first college starts between the pipes for Grand Valley State’s Division II men’s hockey club.

Craig, brand spankin’ new to the program, has been welcomed with open arms by his new teammates. He’s stopped 47 of 51 shots (.923 save percentage) through two starts, giving up just 2.0 goals per game as GVSU took down Maryland-Baltimore County, 8-2, on Jan. 17 and Michigan State, 3-2, on Saturday.

Despite the warm welcome, jumping into a new team in the middle of the season is not done without some trepidation – especially since GVSU’s goalies – Doc Hoekzema (10-0-1) and Ryan Morey (9-4-1) – have won 19 of their 26 starts.

“I was definitely a little bit nervous coming in, didn’t know how the response was going to be to a guy coming in halfway through the year,” Craig said. “But the guys have been great about it; it’s been a very smooth transition.”

The question is: Why come in halfway through the year? Where did he come from?

One unique part about Craig’s start in hockey is how he came to be a goalie while growing up in Chicago.

“We had a kid on our team, he had the Trevor Kidd kind of pads, the checkerboard kind of ones, and I absolutely loved them. The reason I got into the position of goalie was strictly for the gear,” Craig said with a laugh.

In addition to the obvious fashion benefit, Craig said he has thoroughly enjoyed his hockey career that has taken him all over the state of Michigan.

After he moved from Chicago to Canton, Mich., he decided to play for Canton High School. Post-grad, he moved on to bigger and better things.

After high school, he played in the NA3HL (North American Tier III Hockey League) for the Michigan Mountain Cats, who play out of Fraser, Mich.

“Last year, I was trying to play juniors again and I got an opportunity to go play out in Ottawa,” he said, “but I didn’t think it was right, being my last year to play juniors.”

So, putting hockey briefly on the back burner, Craig decided to play pick-up hockey here and there while he took classes and focused on his education at Grand Rapids Community College. Then he transferred to GVSU to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

Last semester, while watching GVSU’s DIII team play Oakland University, he felt the itch that only hockey can scratch.

“I felt drawn back into the game,” he said. “I felt that fire light up again. Being back in the rink sparked my interest again, and I really wanted to explore the opportunity, so I gave (head coach Mike) Forbes a call,” Craig said.

That call got him to where he is today – living the ACHA dream. And Craig could not be happier.

“As far as the team goes, it’s probably one of the best teams I’ve ever played on. Growing up, you play for fun, but you get to that age when you really push for championships and making deep runs. This is probably the only team I’ve played for where that’s realistic, where we can get a ring,” Craig said.

The Lakers will continue their pursuit of that reality with a pair of home games against Davenport on Feb. 7-8.