GVSU Division II hockey splits road series

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Collin Finkhouse (19) evades the Rockets defensemen and tries a shot on net.  The Lakers square off against the Rockets from the University of Toledo Nov. 6 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Collin Finkhouse (19) evades the Rockets’ defensemen and tries a shot on net. The Lakers square off against the Rockets from the University of Toledo Nov. 6 in Allendale.

Josh Peick

The Division II Grand Valley State men’s hockey club split a high-profile weekend series against host Lindenwood University. The Lakers (14-2-1) bested the Lions 5-1 Friday night, but dropped the series finale on Saturday 4-1.

Lindenwood is one of the few teams that can match the Lakers’ physicality. The shoulder-to-shoulder battle between the two teams made it tough for either side to score goals early.

In Friday night’s match, GVSU’s Mitch Claggett broke the scoreless tie in the latter half of the first period. Claggett’s goal marked his third game in a row finding the back of the net.

Lindenwood answered with a goal early in the second period, tying the game at one goal apiece, but the tie didn’t last long. Two minutes later, the Lakers responded and never looked back. Senior Nick Schultz broke the tie, and Thomas Lusynski followed with a goal a minute later.

The Lakers extended the lead in the third period, scoring two power play goals, one from team captain Zac Strain and another from defenseman Reede Burnett.

“(Lindenwood) is a physical team, but we were able to out-skate them and stay disciplined,” Strain said.

The Lakers’ five goals were more than enough for goaltender Spencer Craig. Craig entered the game with a 1.48 goals against average, which he managed to lower after Friday night’s performance.

In game two of the series, the Lakers had a hard time putting points on the board. After a physical and scoreless first period, GVSU opened up the scoring in the second frame. Just 12 seconds into the period, senior Tony Russo provided the game’s first goal. Fellow senior Ian Hamilton notched an assist on the play.

The Laker goal woke up the Lindenwood offense. The Lions went on to score four consecutive goals — three in the second period and one in the third period. Turnovers hurt the Lakers, directly leading to two unassisted Lindenwood goals.

Although the Lakers managed to get 54 shots on net, the offense only managed to muster one goal.

“We just ran into a hot goaltender and had a tough time finding the back of the net,” Strain said.

The Lakers’ inability to capitalize on the power play led to the low scoring total. The Lindenwood penalty kill held GVSU to 0-for-4 on power plays.

“(The Lindenwood defense) played consistent throughout both games,” Schultz said. “We had opportunities, we just didn’t score. They clogged the front of their net.”

The Lakers will likely stay ranked No. 2 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Central Division after a split against the No. 3 Lindenwood.

GVSU will look to bounce back next weekend from Saturday’s loss in the biggest series of the year. The Lakers will face off against the No. 1 team in the division, Lindenwood University – Belleville (17-3). Belleville’s three losses have all come on away games.

GVSU will host the two-game series at Georgetown Ice Center on Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 4 p.m. The Lakers will try to take advantage of Belleville’s struggles in away games. The Lakers boast an 8-1-1 record when playing at home this season.