GVSU men’s club hockey (D2) enters season with championship aspirations

GVL / Emily Frye
GVSU D2 Hockey takes on Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Friday September 22, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye GVSU D2 Hockey takes on Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Friday September 22, 2017.

Kellen Voss

It’s that time of year again: The men’s club hockey (Division II) season is finally upon us. 

It may be hot enough to melt the polar ice caps outside, but the ice is cold in the Georgetown Ice Center, and the players are more than ready to get the puck rolling. 

After a semifinal appearance in the ACHA National Championship last year, the Lakers have come into the season hungry for that coveted national championship and the accolades that come with it.

Three straight years of ACHA semifinal appearances has Grand Valley State craving the title this year.

“The expectation we have here is to get to the tournament and vie for a chance to win a national championship,” said Mike Forbes, head coach. “As long as I’m at GV, that’s going to be our goal.”

GVSU certainly looked like a championship contender in their 10-1 win over Indiana University of Pennsylvania this past Friday, Sept. 22. The Lakers were vigorous on the offensive attack, recording five goals in the third period. Sophomore Cameron Dyde recorded a hat trick, and other key goals came from sophomore and returning leading scorer Ryan Hein and senior Troy Marrett. Freshmen Evan Newell also scored his first collegiate goal on Friday.

“The game was obviously a good outcome,” Forbes said. “I was happy with the way we played.” 

This year’s hockey team has a solid combination of youth and experience. The Lakers lost four graduating players from last year and added seven new freshmen, including forwards Newell and Danny DeBlouw, whom Forbes called “dynamic on offense.” 

“We still have high expectations for these guys,” said senior forward Troy Marrett, speaking about the young players.

Several returning players look to improve upon their impressive play from last year, especially on the defensive side of the ice.

“Starting goalie Jared Maddock looks to continue to have a huge impact,” Forbes said. “And we’ve got six returning players on the defense that have played big minutes for this team.” 

Forbes specifically mentioned defenders Lucas Little and Reede Burnett, who combined for six assists in the opener and look to lead the stark defense this season.

Hockey has one of the longest seasons among all the club sports, with the first practices starting mid-summer and the national championship taking place in March. This near year-round season doesn’t even faze these athletes. 

“A lot of it is just our conditioning,” said forward Ryan Hein. “The work we do is huge to drag out those games at end of the season.”

Marrett doesn’t seem to mind the months of conditioning and playing.

“At this point, we’re kind of used to it, training all summer and playing until April growing up,” Marrett said. “So this is nothing out of the ordinary.” 

It’s that mentality that makes this team a force to be reckoned with, and the persistence of this team should be key in another deep run in the tournament.

After three years of getting so close to the title, this team seems to be in championship-or-bust mode, and they have high expectations for themselves. 

“I expect to bring home the national championship,” Hein said. “With the talent we picked up and the talent we still have, I expect it to be a great season.”

When asked what he was most excited about this season, Hein said he couldn’t wait to see his team work together and that they were already developing some good chemistry. 

“Everyone gets along,” Hein said. “Every guy wants every other guy around.” 

These kinds of bonds are what separate good teams from great teams, and the team chemistry will come in very handy when tournament time rolls around.

It’s a long season, but it should be exciting to see how this team develops. 

“Every season is like a pregnancy,” Forbes said, whose ex-wife used to describe the season with this metaphor. “Nine months later, you see what you have, and I’m excited to see this team’s potential.”

It’s clear to see why someone would be excited about this team. They have lots of tournament experience, great young players with potential and are already forming strong team chemistry. If this team continues to develop, this could be one special season for the Lakers.

GVSU looks to continue on the road to a championship with two games against Bradley University at Georgetown Ice Center Friday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 30, at 3 p.m.