DI men’s hockey closes regular-season series 3-1 against Calvin


GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Madeleine Smith, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University Division I men’s hockey club made their mark against the familiar Calvin University as they took two wins in a back-to-back matchup against the Knights.

Jan. 13 finished 5-3 for the Lakers as the following match on Jan. 14 finished 2-1. These wins bumped their season record up to commanding 23-5 as the Lakers took the season series against the Knights 3-1.

During the first game, played at the Griff’s Ice Arena, GVSU students and families cheered on the team as it was their first game back in just under a month after a successful run in the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame (GRSHOF) Tournament that was capped off in a win against Calvin (4-2 Dec. 10).

“Not skating over break until the week of the game put us at a disadvantage that we were able to overcome,” senior defender Andrew Dundas said.   

GVSU jumped out to a two-goal lead early as junior forward Gage Thrall and (6:29) and senior forward Evan Chomachi (7:39) would put the Lakers up 2-0 for a large portion of the opening period. However, the Knights would respond before the period came to a close to bring the deficit to within one goal with plenty of game left to play. 

Thrall commented on the importance of the intangibles that don’t necessarily show up in the box score but ultimately play a huge difference on the outcome of matches at any point of the season.

“Getting the puck out and getting the puck deep (to open teammates is important), and not causing any turnover,” Thrall said. “If you have a shot opportunity, take the shot instead of taking the high-risk play.”

Even with junior goalie Devin Naidow preventing several shot-on-goal attempts by the Knights, Calvin was able to turn the match around in their favor as they scored two goals to take their first lead of the match. However, the Lakers would tie up the match at 3 goals apiece after Thrall made his second goal for GVSU that was assisted by senior forward Zach Borchardt going into the third and final period.

With 20 minutes to play in regulation and the season-series bragging rights on the line, Head Coach Matthew Sekosan described what the huddle sounded like prior to the third-period puck drop. 

“(Since) we had some penalty trouble there in part of the second, we faced some short-handed kills,” Sekosan said. “We made some adjustments to our penalty kill and went to a different formation. Outside of that (I told them) to be defensive and responsible, which is something we  have preached since day one.” 

With just under 10 minutes of action played and neither team able to take over the match, Thrall recorded a hat trick as his third goal of the game (9:54) assisted by senior forward Shane Haggerty. The remaining nine minutes and some change would be a grueling effort by both teams as Calvin would eventually call a timeout in a last-ditch attempt to send the match into overtime.

With only 30 seconds left in the game, Calvin pulled their goalie, but a light shot by freshman forward Tristan Avoletta slowly glided into the Knights’ empty net to secure the victory for GVSU once and for all, 5-3.

“Oh, it was exciting,” Thrall said about the last-second goal. “Even the fans were going wild on that one. It was exciting to know that at that point the win was sealed and that just counted as a bonus for us.” 

Sekosan also commented on how this match compared to previous appearances against Calvin this season as the first time the Lakers faced the Knights was a night to forget, with the match finishing in a 0-5 loss for GVSU.

“Storybook-wise for the most part we almost replicated the previous game,” Sekosan said. “Close in shots and close in possession. We’ve definitely learned from the first time we matched them.”

The Jan. 14 match didn’t entail nearly as much scoring as the first of two games as senior forward Zach Kippe would be the only Laker to score in regulation (16:51 first period) and the Knights would finally respond nine minutes into the third period.

GVSU would end up winning the shootout as Thrall and Borchardt laced their shot attempts to win the overtime 2-1 and seal the two-game matchup against Calvin 2-0.

The Lakers will play in their next match on Jan. 20 and 21 against Davenport University with the first game played at the Griff’s Georgetown Ice Arena starting at 8 p.m.