GVSU D2 hockey goes 2-0-1 in three game road trip

GVL / Luke Holmes - Danny Smith (3) skates toward the goal with the puck. GVSU Men’s D2 Hockey defeated Ferris State University with a score of 8-1 on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – Danny Smith (3) skates toward the goal with the puck. GVSU Men’s D2 Hockey defeated Ferris State University with a score of 8-1 on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2016.

Robbie Triano

Head coach of Grand Valley State’s club hockey team (Division II) Mike Forbes believes there is three stages of a team coming together: storming (finding the team’s identity), norming (buying into the system), and performing (playing to its true potential).

Forbes can be proud to say his team has entered the performing stage after a successful three-game road series where the Lakers’ came out with two wins and a tie against three of the top teams in the southeast region.

The Lakers’ first game resulted in a comeback 3-3 overtime tie against Florida Gulf Coast Friday, Jan. 20, followed by a thrilling 3-2 OT win over Penn State Saturday, Jan. 21. GVSU closed out the weekend on a high note with a 3-1 redemption victory over Miami of Ohio Sunday, Jan. 22.

For a team that struggled early in the year, freshman Matt Sherman said that this weekend was much needed before the playoff stretch.

“The biggest difference since day one has been that our young team has really grown together a lot,” Sherman said. “We’re playing more as a five-man unit on the ice rather than one person trying to do everything.”

The first game against Florida Gulf Coast was not easy for the Lakers, as they dug themselves into a 3-1 hole, but GVSU’s defense stepped up big to turn stops into offensive opportunities. Late in the third period, defenseman Lucas Little made it a one-point contest. Shortly after, Reede Burnett scored the tying and game’s final goal as neither team capitalized in the overtime period.

“It was nice to see the boys refuse to quit and come back to tie that game,” Forbes said. “We had a great first period and didn’t want to put that to waste.”

The second game also went into extra play, but this time the Lakers came out on top after a blue-line shot by Lucas Little deflected off two Nittany Lion defenders into the net to give them a 3-2 victory in fashion. Other goal scorers were Danny Smith and Ryker Barber.

Little finished the weekend with three goals, and Forbes was not shy to give praise to him and the rest of the defense.

“When your defense scores four of the six goals in the first two games, it really makes a huge difference when the offense isn’t clicking,” Forbes said.

GVSU’s biggest challenge was their weekend finale against Miami of Ohio, a team that exposed the Lakers earlier this year after a weekend series resulting in a 3-1 loss and a 1-1 tie in early December.

But the Lakers stepped up to the occasion, playing solid defense and giving consistent effort to grab a 3-1 redemption victory over the Redhawks. Goal scorers were Austin Koleski, Buck Maynard and Matt Sherman.

Goaltenders Spencer Craig and Jared Maddock had a busy weekend stopping shots, but rose to the occasion to make some game saving plays, especially in both overtime periods.

With playoff contention about one month away, Forbes said this weekend was essential to prepare the team moving forward, especially on the road.

“This weekend was exhausting for the players, but paid off by the fact our team was always together on the ice, at the hotel, and eating team dinners,” Forbes said. “This weekend proved that when we bring our minds and hearts together, we can beat any team in the country.

“I don’t think they’re going to miss relying on Cliff Bars to make it through the bus ride though.”

The Lakers (15-3-2) take on rival Michigan State Friday, Jan. 27 at Georgetown Ice Center.