Men’s DI hockey falls short in GLCHL playoffs


GVL / Macayla Cramer

Madeleine Smith, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University’s Division I men’s hockey team faced two challenging opponents this week as they fell short of making it to the GLCHL Championship. 

GVSU started off strong with a win against the Davenport Panthers (2-1) in the first round of the playoffs on Feb. 23 and were poised against Calvin University the following day. 

Although the Lakers faced the Knights four times in the regular season and won three of the meetings, Calvin would get the best of GVSU when it mattered most with a 1-8 victory in the semifinals.

The win against Davenport saw just one goal by the Panthers about midway through the first period, as that would be the only score in the first 20 minutes. 

The second period featured fast-paced offensive play and multiple saves by junior goalie Devin Naidow which ultimately led to the first Laker goal of the game by senior forward Zach Borchardt assisted by senior forwards Zach Kippe and Shane Haggerty (9:44).

With the match tied going into the third and final period, GVSU remained persistent as freshman defenseman Carson Wood would finally score once again to put the Lakers out in front with plenty of time left on the clock (16:18) – assisted by sophomore forward Sam Lechel and freshman forward Tristan Avoletta.

After Wood’s goal, the Laker defense would hold up against attempts made by the Panthers with the final score being 2-1. The win tallied the fifth overall against Davenport this season as GVSU swept the opponent 4-0 during the regular season.

Following the tough quarterfinals win, GVSU traveled across town on Feb. 24 to face the Knights on the road.

However, this match would come with costly mistakes by the Lakers as just a few minutes into the game, junior forward Gage Thrall was hit with a misconduct penalty that cost the Lakers a man on the ice for a 15-minute power play.

Even while shorthanded, the GVSU defense held up as the Knights would be the first and only team to score in the first period to create a 0-1 lead (16:03).

“Calvin came at us aggressively and they were very hard to play against,” Haggerty said. “They capitalized on all their opportunities, which is what you need to do the best is what is needed (in a playoff match).”

The following period saw the Knights scoring early (2:46) once again, but sophomore defenseman Bryan Clahassey (Avoletta and sophomore forward Carson Korte) would respond with a goal a few minutes later to trim the deficit to just one goal (1-2, 5:50).

Shortly after, the intensity grew as failed shot attempts from both sides came with each passing minute until the Knights took a commanding 1-3 lead (11:01) with plenty of time to string together a comeback for the Lakers.

Unfortunately for GVSU, an offensive landslide would highlight the final period in favor of the Knights as the opponent scored five-unanswered goals to close out the match in a shocking 1-8 finish.

“They deserved every part of that win,” Haggerty said. “This season was still a special one for us despite what happened in the tournament.”

Head Coach Matt Sekosan was in his first year as the head coach for the Lakers as the team is in its second season for Division I level of play (previously DII) in program history. Sekosan said even with the upsetting loss in the conference playoffs, the team competed well all season.

“This team in its second season competing at a D1 level came out of the gates running, playing nationally ranked teams in the first portion of the season – (all) with a winning record,” Sekosan said. “Just like any season, there are ups and downs, and this team had far more ups, with a number of players hitting career milestones. This team has made strides to become a nationally recognized elite program and it is because of our team’s leadership that it is so.”

Sekosan also spotlighted one of his most memorable highlights from this season.

“Being nationally ranked starting the second ranking period of the season, sweeping No. 15 UofM-Dearborn to start the season on the road and winning the inaugural Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Tournament (were all great),” Sekosan said.

With this loss, GVSU is now ranked No. 12 (previously No. 10) in the nation with an updated list coming in the near future. The Lakers will now take time to prepare for the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Men’s DI National Tournament that begins March 16-21.