GVSU DII hockey wins on Senior Night

GVL / Luke Holmes - Mitch Claggett (10) skates down the ice with the puck. The Grand Valley D2 hockey team won 5-2 over Davenport University at Georgetown Ice Arena Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Mitch Claggett (10) skates down the ice with the puck. The Grand Valley D2 hockey team won 5-2 over Davenport University at Georgetown Ice Arena Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016.

Josh Peick

The Grand Valley State Division II men’s hockey club finished up regular season play over the weekend. The Lakers (27-5-1) split a two-game series with Davenport University, losing the first game 4-3 and winning 5-2 in the second.

In game one, the Lakers were on the wrong side of some penalty calls and found themselves spending quality time in the box. Unable to kill off a few penalties, GVSU trailed Davenport and was never able to take the lead.

The offense had spurts of production, but not enough to sustain any momentum. Michael Russo, Collin Finkhouse and Ian Hamilton each tallied a goal, but the team fell a goal short by the end of the third period.

“I didn’t think we played particularly well in the second and third (periods) after a really solid first,” said GVSU head coach Mike Forbes.

The same type of play at the end of the first game carried over into the first period of game two. After one minute of play, Davenport scored to take an early lead.

“I think we played good in the first 10 minutes and it was just one of those shots to go in,” said GVSU goaltender Jiri Aberle. “Kind of a tough situation for a goalie, but I think I bounced back.”

The Panthers played an aggressive forecheck in the first period, something GVSU did not match. It was difficult for the Lakers to get the puck out of the defensive zone and kickstart the offense.

With two minutes left in the first period, the Lakers turned it around. GVSU kept the puck in the offensive zone, and, though the puck didn’t find the back of the net, the team generated quality shots and put pressure on the Davenport defense.

“I think we just got a little more confident,” said senior Nick Schultz. “We weren’t really establishing a forecheck, and then toward the end of the first we started to get a little more momentum.”

The momentum carried over into the second period, as the GVSU seniors, on Senior Night, stepped up. Just five minutes into the period, senior Corbin Rainey scored on a rebound with a little help from his skate. Defenseman Lucas Little snapped the puck into the right pad of the DU goaltender. Rainey raced into the crease looking to fire a shot off of the rebound, but the puck found his skates and trickled into the net.

GVSU’s Alex Ostrowski added another goal 10 minutes later on a wrist shot that sniped the top right corner of the net as he came across the slot. The Lakers’ lead only lasted a few minutes after a Panther power play goal with two minutes left in the second period. Just when the period was coming to a close, the Lakers struck again.

With 23 seconds left in the frame, senior Nick Schultz tapped in an easy goal with the puck sitting in the crease after a shot by Ostrowski. This was Schultz’s lone goal of the game, but he also marked three assists on the night.

“My linemates were doing great tonight and we just worked really well,” Schultz said. “Hopefully we can carry this momentum to nationals.”

Entering the third period with a 3-2 lead, the Lakers put the game out of reach with two more goals. The first came from defenseman Tom Lusynski on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle after Schultz rattled a shot off of the post. The last goal was Rainey’s second of the night on a roofed shot after wrapping around the net.

For the seniors, it was a memorable night that was capped off with a win against a crosstown rival.

“Georgetown (Ice Center) has been my home for the last four years,” Aberle said. “I always love playing in front of these fans and it’s a special feeling.”

This marks the end of the regular season, but the Lakers are far from finished. Coming into the weekend, GVSU clinched the second seed in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Central Division, earning an automatic bid to the national tournament.

The Lakers will have a five-week break before the tournament begins, and staying fresh will be difficult.

“That’s always the challenge. It’s just about impossible,” Forbes said. “The first game you always hold your breath. It’s the matter of having hard practices and just pretending like it is the beginning of the season where you work on systems and work the guys hard.”

The Lakers will start the journey to the championship on March 18 in West Chester, Pennsylvania.