The setting felt right, the energy felt right and even the first period felt right; but after that, nothing else was quite ‘right.’
The Grand Valley State University Men’s DII club hockey team traveled to downtown Grand Rapids to face-off against the ACHA Central’s top-ranked team, the Aquinas Saints on Friday, Feb. 15.
While the Lakers got off to a fast start and took an early lead 1-0 on a goal by sophomore forward Danny DeBlouw, the rest of the game left much to be desired. The second period was an onslaught, as the Saints poured in six goals during the second period on their way to an 8-2 steamrolling of the Lakers Friday night.
“We had maybe our best period of the season and followed it up with our worst,” said head coach Carl Trosien. “Aquinas came out with a chip on their shoulder and took it to us. The biggest thing between the first and second period was our comfort level.”
GVSU out-shot Aquinas 14-10 in the first, out-hustling and out-grinding the Saints to the puck and using their opponent’s over-aggressiveness to their advantage as the Lakers had several opportunities to attack the Aquinas net in transition.
Then the wheels fell off as GVSU came out soft throughout the second period. The Lakers were consistently caught out of position on defense and played sloppily on offense, committing a number of costly turnovers that led to several of the Saints goals in the second.
“There was definitely a lack of effort on our part,” said junior forward Randy Stoever. “That and a lack of adaptation really cost us tonight.”
There were highlights to the game outside of the second period for the Lakers. If you take away the second period, the score was tied between the Lakers and Saints 2-2 with GVSU out-shooting Aquinas 28-20 between the first and third periods.
“We just need to work all throughout the game and be better throughout all three zones,” Trosien said. “We need to get a better effort across the board.”
While the lopsided loss may be a stumbling block for the Lakers, Trosien is optimistic that the Lakers have begun to find a rhythm as the postseason nears.
“I think we’ve all finally bought into each other, into the program,” Trosien said. “We’ve had our nights where we couldn’t go out and get X, Y, and Z done and then we’ve had nights where we went out and executed our goals.”
That execution had become more common of late as the Lakers were on a six game winning streak before the loss.
“I think we’ve finally found our rhythm between our lines,” said senior defenseman Nick Beers. “We’re finally to a point where we’re rolling a little bit and hopefully that can carry over to the playoffs.”
After the Lakers finished their regular season with 16-10-1 record, they will advance to the ACHA Regional Tournament that occurs March 1-3 in Minneapolis. GVSU will enter the tournament as a six seed looking to advance to the ACHA National Tournament for the 15th time in 16 years.
“We’ve got a lot of teams that are starting to string together runs in the central, Aquinas and Adrian are starting to put together a couple nice runs,” Trosien said. “We’re on 14 out of 15 after last year’s upset and we have to decide how much we want to make it 15 out of 16 and not become the first GVSU team to miss the national tournament two years in a row.”