GVSU sweeps MSU in thrilling series

GVL / Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye

Mark Washburn

A shootout victory in the 2011 playoffs was the last time Grand Valley State’s women’s hockey club defeated Michigan State.

On Saturday, almost four years later, GVSU defeated MSU at home on Senior Night, 6-3. The Lakers proceeded to bring the offense to East Lansing the next day, defeating MSU in overtime, 5-4.

“It feels good to beat them, and really good to beat them for the people who have been here four or five years,” defenseman Lauren Iavasile said on Saturday. “We know how tough it is to beat this team, and it feels phenomenal.”

Game one didn’t exactly begin in GVSU’s favor, however. The Spartans started off hot, scoring two first-period goals to take a 2-0 lead. GVSU had a few opportunities, but the bounces were going MSU’s way. Heading into the first intermission, GVSU coach Sean McKernan knew things had to change.

“We have to quit the emotional roller coaster and not get down on ourselves,” McKernan said. “We had to play shift for shift, keep it simple and battle through.”

In the second period, the momentum started to swing. Again, the Lakers were creating early opportunities and putting pucks on net, but they couldn’t capitalize. Then, Iavasile found the twine with a power-play goal midway through the second. The tally was scored just seven seconds into the man advantage.

“With this team, we’ve got the mental game, and we’ve got the mental piece back under control,” said senior forward Alisha Day. “We were able to focus on what we had to get done, and we were able to go out there and do what we know how to do.”

Entering the third trailing MSU 2-1, the Lakers made more adjustments — and they paid off in a big way. Day scored 6:18 into the period to knot things up, then, only 31 seconds later, the Lakers made the horn sound again when forward Katie Danto went top shelf, glove side to give GVSU a 3-2 lead with 13:11 remaining.

Michigan State wasn’t about to give up, as Spartan forward Natalie Prisciandaro scored to even the game at three goals apiece. GVSU took over in crunch time, however, and with 2:24 remaining in the game, Iavasile made a play.

“We had to go in there and forecheck, cause the turnover,” she said. “Then the puck squirted back to me and I had no one in front of me and I knew (MSU goalie Julia King) was weak up top. So I was just going to let it go and (the puck) went right under the bar.”

Iavasile’s glove-side snipe proved to be the game-winning goal. The Lakers were able to score two more goals, an empty netter from Day followed by another by Stacey Mathieu to round out the six-goal night for GVSU. The team had not won any of its previous six games.

“We were finally able to get the monkey off our back,” McKernan said. “To come out and have the third period that we had really says a lot about the character of the team and how badly that they wanted this victory.”

And what a victory it was, especially for the seniors, playing their last home game at Georgetown on Senior Night. Day, who along with Iavasile tallied a game-high three points, was one of the seniors honored before the game.

“It is bittersweet being my last home game at Grand Valley,” Day said. “I have treasured the five years here and the experiences that I’ve had, friends that I’ve made.”

The Lakers found themselves down two goals with less than nine minutes to play in Sunday’s game, but were more than ready to duplicate Saturday’s third-period outburst.

GVSU’s Kristen Iannuzzi made it a 4-3 game with 8:36 left on the clock — and Mathieu stepped up with the clutch equalizer less than five minutes later. In overtime, the series came to a close befittingly, as Laker center Allison Lowe struck just 26 seconds into the sudden-death period.

The team concludes its regular season schedule with a two-game series at the University of Michigan this weekend.