GV club hockey celebrates and reflects on historical season

Holly Bihlman, Sports Editor

The Grand Valley State University club hockey program consists of two teams — DI and DIII — and this season both teams ended with great reasons to celebrate. As a year-one team in the Great Lakes Colligate Hockey Conference (GLCHC) Division I, the Lakers walked away with the conference title their inaugural season, which has never been done by any team in the league. On that same night, the DIII team walked away with the Michigan Colligate Hockey Conference (MCHC) tournament win for the first time in the program’s history.

Courtesy / Twitter @gvsuhockeyd3

What’s even more serendipitous about both teams’ success this season was the fact that both wins were celebrated within 10 minutes of each other on Feb. 26 in double-overtime games. The DI team defeated Davenport University in the finals 6-5 with the 2OT goal by team captain Zach Borchardt, and shortly after, team captain of the DIII team Brendan Ramboer put the last goal in the back of the net to make the final score 3-2 against no. 1 seed, undefeated, Hope College.

Among the many accomplishments that these teams pulled off this season, this night was one that coach Carl Trosien of the DI team and first-year coach Dylan Knox of the DIII team will never forget.

“The things that had to go right and the teams we had to beat to get to that final destination, we understood what that road looked like and we knew it was definitely not going to be easy,” Trosien said. “It’s still pretty crazy to think about year one — it’s still a little surreal to me.”

Heading into the semi-finals after defeating familiar foe Western University, the DI team faced the six-year reigning champions and no. 1 seed Adrian College, who they came eerily close to beating earlier in their regular season. When they finally pulled it off — their first win against Adrian all season — they knew they were a team to be reckoned with.

“We had our system and we knew it would work against them (Adrian),” junior wing Zack Kippe said. “It was close all game, we were up and then once it got tied they really put it on after that, but we held in there and they didn’t get another one, and then we popped the last one (goal) and won.”

Upon defeating the top team in the league in the semi-finals, the Lakers were ecstatic with pride and full of confidence moving up to the Davenport University finals game.

“(It was) a career moment,” freshman defenseman Bryan Clahassey said. “Anytime you win something it’s fantastic in itself, but I think the fact that we were the underdog going in, then beat Adrian, and that comeback (against Davenport) was just such a fulfilling (experience) — everything paid off.”

Their celebrating didn’t stop there, however. When they found out that the DIII team had won their game as well, it was a second wave of Laker pride.

GVL / Lauren Seymour

“As soon as ours was done and we were done cheering and whatnot in the locker room, I went right to my phone to look at what their score was and I saw they were in double-overtime, too,” Kippe said. “I pulled up the live stream and like, five minutes after I pulled it up, they scored, and we just started celebrating again.”

The DIII team’s big win ended in sweet victory against the 29-0 Hope College for their tournament game, heading in with the same mindset that the DI team had going into their top-dog game.

“It was a great day to be a Laker,” Ramboer said. “We were kind of like, ‘well, if we don’t beat them (Hope), nobody else is going to, so we’re going to have to be the ones to.”

As Knox’s first year coaching the DIII team, he was equally as excited to see his team’s success come to light.

“It was one of the better hockey games I have ever been a part of,” Knox said. “It was one of the more satisfying games, too. Obviously, the outcome was great, but it was satisfying just in the sense that it wasn’t decided on some fluke goal. It wasn’t like, ‘I got lucky and we’re just, you know, barely hanging in there.’ It was blow for blow the entire game. We earned every single goal. We earned every single outcome of that game.”

While both teams operate under the same program, they are made up of entirely different rosters and coaching staff, so each team’s success was brought on by the hard work and dedication of each roster.

With odds seemingly stacked against the DI team at the beginning of the season, they were entering their new division for the first time with an incredibly young roster consisting of just seven juniors and no seniors. The underclassmen outnumbered the upperclassmen, but what they managed to do in their 23 weeks in the regular season came through for an ending unlike any other.

“Playing smart — that’s where our team came together,” Clahassey said. “We always had good effort, worked super hard, practiced tough. That’s where we started to click, is when we were just playing with good intentions as a team.”

With four players on the DI team ending the season with national rankings in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (AHCA) DI standings, the younger players on the team have a huge sense of leadership to lean on going into next season. Junior wing Shane Haggerty was ranked first in points, eleventh in goals and was the assist leader. Junior wing Zach Borchardt was ranked third in points and was the leading goal scorer. Kippe was ranked twentieth in goals and freshman wing Josh Suzio was ranked fourteenth in assists.

Several of the other younger players on the team are already expecting great things next season after the team figured out lines that were working well for them halfway through this year. On defense, Clahassey and fellow freshman defender Josh Frosyland locked in their positions together. Offensively, sophomore center Nick Sommerfield locked in with Kippe and Haggerty, and sophomore wing Sam Lechel with Suzio and Borchardt.

Opposite to the DI team’s roster, the DIII team went into this season senior-heavy, leading their well-acquainted team to the trophy at the end, too.

“I think as a whole, it was really nice just having all of your guys there,” Knox said. “All those guys that had the letters, they really went above and beyond just in terms of really giving our defenseman, forwards, wings, somebody to look up to, and kind of get that blueprint and that model for everybody else to follow. It was also really nice not completely relying on them, and that we did get a lot of contributions from the younger guys, too.”

As both teams celebrated their conference championships, coaches Trosien and Knox both reflected on how this new reputation affects the future of the program.

“I think the biggest thing it did was reinforced what we’re selling here, the trajectory that we’re claiming to be on, and the results now match or exceed that trajectory,” Trosien said. “And to be able to see that playoff game go the way it did is just one of the more gratifying things that I’ve been able to do in 15 years doing this, because normally you don’t see those kinds of results that quickly.”

As both teams look forward to next year’s season, they’ve been enjoying their off-season spending time with each other as friends and teammates, celebrating each other’s accomplishments and ultimately leaving behind a legacy that will go down in GVSU hockey history.