GVSU falls two wins short of ACHA title

Mark Washburn

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the greatest hockey playoff system in the world, and for the Grand Valley State women’s hockey team, the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 1 Women’s national tournament is the equivalent.

The Lakers took their talents to York, Pa. over spring break to compete with seven other schools for the ACHA national championship. Fifth-seeded GVSU advanced to the semifinals after going 1-1-1 in Pool B, but ended the season with a 6-0 loss to Miami of Ohio. 

GVSU competed against three teams in pool play: eventual champion Liberty University, the University of Massachusetts and Penn State. The Lakers began their tournament run Wednesday against UMass.

“We were not sure what to expect from them because we haven’t played them,” said co-head coach Sean McKernan. “We could only scout them on paper.”

There wasn’t much excitement early on until GVSU junior Stacey Mathieu showed off her moves and scored for the Lakers with 90 seconds left in the second period. Mathieu put the puck in the back of the net again with 1:22 left in the third period to give GVSU a 2-0 lead, which held as the final score.

On Thursday, the Lakers were tasked with taking on Liberty. The teams tangled twice in January, and the Flames topped the Lakers in both games. 

Liberty struck first 16 seconds into the second period, and took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. The Flames added an insurance goal in the third and held on for a 3-0 win.

“We got behind the eight ball and could not generate much offense,” McKernan said. “Later in the game, we created some high quality scoring chances but just could not bury them.”

A win or a tie against Penn State on Friday would determine whether or not GVSU made it out of Pool B with a chance to advance to the national semifinal. 

After a scoreless first period, GVSU lit the lamp first when Kristen Iannuzzi scored on an assist from Katie Danto. Penn State scored the next two goals, but GVSU’s Kendra Myers delivered for the Lakers late in the second period to tie the game at 2-2.

“There was a mini 2-on-1 situation and Myers buried a shot with 30 seconds to go that gave us a spark heading into the third period,” McKernan said.

Then, Penn State scored a powerplay goal to take a third-period lead, but Corey Robison sent the game into overtime after equalizing the score at 3-3. The Nittany Lions pulled their goalie with time winding down, but GVSU locked down defensively and advanced to take on Miami.

GVSU and Miami did battle on the ice for the fourth time in four games, and the Lakers entered the second period in a scoreless draw, but the RedHawks took over from there. Miami scored six unanswered goals, two in the second and four in the third, to finish GVSU’s season.

“There were a lot of miscues on our changes that allowed them to score two second-period goals,” McKernan said. “We were later able to create some high quality shots, but Miami blocked a lot of our close opportunities.”

The semifinal finish was the furthest GVSU has ever finished in the national tournament. As far as the season went, it was a solid run for the Lakers as they finished with a 14-10-4 record.

“The second semester really set the tone,” McKernan said. “We played high quality opponents, and we know we can play against the best.”