GVSU women’s hockey wins thrilling CCWHA final

GVL / Courtesy - Sandy Tenwalde

Sandy Tenwalde

GVL / Courtesy – Sandy Tenwalde

Josh Peick

In the Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association tournament, the Grand Valley State women’s hockey club rallied off three straight wins to secure the first tournament win in school history. The Lakers defeated Davenport University 3-0, Adrian College 2-1 and Miami (Ohio) University 2-1 in a triple-overtime thriller in the championship game.

All three teams beat GVSU in the regular season, but the Lakers enacted revenge in the most important games of the season thus far.

In the first-round matchup against Davenport, the Lakers started off slow, but eventually wore the Panthers down. With a 1-0 lead after the second period, GVSU scored two goals in the first 10 minutes of the third period to put the game out of reach.

In the second game against Adrian, the Lakers scored late in the first period and early in the second to jump out to a 2-0 lead. GVSU dominated puck possession throughout the game, making it hard for Adrian to find any rhythm on offense. After giving up a goal midway through the third period, the Laker defense buckled down and thwarted any comeback effort by the Bulldogs.

“The girls executed the game plan perfectly,” said GVSU head coach Sean McKernan. “It was probably our best game of the year skating-wise and controlling puck possession.”

In the championship game, GVSU edged out Miami (Ohio), the top seed in the tournament, in the third overtime period. The Redhawks broke a scoreless tie with less than five minutes left in the third period. Their lead lasted all of 34 seconds. GVSU’s Bree Tasker responded with a quick goal to send the game into overtime.

After two scoreless overtime periods of back-and-forth hockey, the Lakers were on a 4-on-3 power play to open up the third overtime. After a shot hit a Redhawk defender, the puck touched each Laker on the ice before Alexa Tenwalde found freshman Téa Greca in front of the net. Greca fired the shot past the goaltender to clinch GVSU’s first CCWHA championship.

“We don’t talk about individual play. We talk about team play,” McKernan said. “And for everyone to touch the puck before it finally crossed the line for the game-winner was a special moment.”

Greca’s game-winning goal was her fifth goal of the tournament. Her offense effort led to her being named the tournament’s most valuable player.

While Greca’s tournament-clinching goal stole the show at the end, the goaltending by Lauren Allen and the defensive unit’s effort as a whole kept the Lakers in the game.

“Our defense did a fantastic job of limiting (Miami) to one shot and done,” McKernan said. “I couldn’t say enough about our defensive effort.”

The GVSU goaltender saw the same thing as the coach on the bench.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my defense,” Allen said. “Miami is a team that cycles constantly in front of the net. My defense was able to push them aside to allow me to see almost every shot.”

Allen made 47 saves on 48 shots, holding a team that averages 4.2 goals per game to a single tally. Allen’s calm demeanor during the game allowed her to have success in a pressure situation.

“I didn’t think of it as the championship game,” Allen said. “I thought of it as the game I love to play.”

Coming off wins against two of the top teams in the nation, the Lakers have proven to themselves and the rest of the nation that they can contend with some of the top teams. The Lakers are streaking at the right time, with the national tournament just two weeks away.

“If we play how we played last weekend, we have a good chance at going all the way this year,” Greca said.

The American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament begins on March 9 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The seeds for the tournament have not been released yet, but with a CCWHA tournament championship under their belt, the Lakers will likely land somewhere near the top.