Lakers win GMHL hockey tourney

GVL / Eric Coulter
Freshman Matt Smartt (20) shooting the puck away from a defender during the Lakers last game against Hope College

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Freshman Matt Smartt (20) shooting the puck away from a defender during the Lakers last game against Hope College

Jon Van Zytveld

With the regular season over, the Grand Valley State University Division II club hockey team made its first steps toward becoming repeat ACHA National Champions, winning the Great Michigan Hockey League Tournament, a step the team believes will prepare it for nationals.

“It was a good weekend for us,” said junior forward Chad Wilhelm. “Friday was a warm-up for Saturday, which was a game we needed to win to have confidence going into nationals. It’s important to have a good feeling about ourselves and our team play when we get there. Winning this tournament was a confidence boost for us, we beat a good team.”

On Friday, the Lakers (27-5-1) shut-out Ferris State University, 7-0. GVSU dominated from the opening face off and held on to its advantage until the end of the game. After struggling against Ferris earlier this season, barely winning 3-2, the Lakers returned to form.

“We came out strong against Ferris this time,” said junior goalie Scott Tiefenthal, who shared the net with senior Josh Lavigne during the tournament. “They didn’t seem to have much incentive, especially because they aren’t going to Nationals.”

The Lakers brought their A-game on day one, expecting a tougher game out of Ferris because the competitor had nothing to lose due to its season being finished. While the win was expected, the margin was not, and the Lakers advanced to the finals with confidence in their ability to win.

On Saturday, the Lakers played against Michigan State University, coming off a 5-3 victory over the University of Michigan on Friday.

The final game of the tournament was more balanced, with both teams pulling ahead at different points in the game. After an early lead from MSU, the Lakers retaliated and kept up the pressure to earn a 5-4 victory and the tournament title.

“We played very well,” Tiefenthal said. “We had some great intensity and State gave us a game similar to what we will see at nationals.”

The GMHL Tournament win served as a much-needed confidence boost for the Lakers, who hit a low point in their season recently after having their 23-game winning streak snapped. The victory was also important to the team because of its significance in tradition.

“It was good to win the GMHL because prior teams that have won have ended up winning nationals,” Wilhelm said. “Hockey is all about those kinds of superstitions, so it was good to win.”

With their season and the tournament behind them, the Lakers are preparing for Nationals, which will be hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University beginning Friday.

Despite the challenges ahead and the difficulty of the games to come, the Lakers are confident that they have a shot at the National title.

“We’ve been preparing for this all season,” Tiefenthal said. “We just need to continue doing the work at practice and we will be ready.”

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