Taylor, Lakers split series with Aquinas

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
#13 Alex Keefer

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #13 Alex Keefer

Mark Washburn

Grand Valley State forward Max Taylor picks up the puck, skates up the left side of the ice and shoots from the circle. The puck sails far-corner, glove side – and the goalie has no time to react.

Taylor’s snipe proved to be the game winner on Saturday night in the latter of two ACHA Division III weekend games between Aquinas College and GVSU.

On Friday night, Aquinas hosted GVSU at Griff’s Icehouse in game one, topping the Lakers 2-1. The Saints had a huge performance from goalie Sean Schmeiser, who turned 42 of 43 shots aside in the win.

Trevor Shields lit the lamp for the Lakers in the first period, but Aquinas turned up the defensive intensity from there. The Saints evened things up in the second period and buried the game winner at the 9:51 mark in the third.

“We definitely outplayed them,” said GVSU’s Christian Bialek, who assisted on Shields’ first-period tally. “We were able to apply a lot of pressure throughout the game.”

Penalties and power plays riddled GVSU in the first game as the Lakers committed 10 penalties. Head coach Charlie Link said it certainly affected the outcome of the game.

“We didn’t give them a lot of scoring opportunities,” Link said, “and they took advantage of the power plays.”

Aquinas scored its first goal on a power play, and its second on a penalty shot.

Offensively, the Lakers had their chances, outshooting the Saints by 23 shots – but they couldn’t seem to find the back of the net.

“We played well defensively as a unit, making plays before they got into the zone and not giving them too many chances,” Bialek said.

Saturday’s game had a similar dynamic, but a different outcome. Aquinas traveled to the Georgetown Ice Center where the Lakers claimed a 4-2 victory.

“We played similar performances,” said GVSU junior defenseman Austin Jacobs. “Guys were crashing hard to the net, our defensive gaps were pretty tight, and we clogged up the neutral zone pretty well.”

Taylor got the goal scoring started for the Lakers when he netted a shot in the first frame, but the game was tied 2-2 after two periods.

The third period is when Taylor tallied the aforementioned beauty, which proved to be the game winner. Nate Dykstra scored an insurance goal late to put the game away.

The biggest difference for the Lakers was their willingness to crash the net. GVSU peppered Schmeiser with 37 shots, and two of the goals came off rebounds.

“Our forwards were breaking out of the zone fast, challenging them in their zone,” Link said. “We made the goalie make a move, and scored on some rebounds.”

GVSU goalie Jiri Aberle came up big for the Lakers in the win, stopping 34 of 36 shots.

From here, the Lakers have a chance to build as the playoffs peek over the horizon. They play well at even strength, but power plays are an area of improvement for the club.

However, the Saturday victory against Aquinas was still a big one.

“It was a good to end the weekend with a win,” Jacobs said. “Now we’ve just got to get things rolling.”