From GCU Club Sports
By Jim Howell
In a quest that took half a decade to bring to fruition, the Grand Canyon University D1 Men’s Hockey team defeated the University of Arizona twice in the span of 26 hours this weekend at AZ Ice Arcadia in Phoenix, using big third-period barrages to post GCU’s first series sweep of the Wildcats in D1 men’s hockey history. The Lopes held off the ‘Cats, 4-3, Friday night, before breaking a 2-2 tie with a trio of 3rd-period goals Saturday for a 5-2 win. The wins upped the Lopes’ overall record to 3-1 – easily the team’s best start to a season in its four years on the American Collegiate Hockey Association D1 level.
“To sum it up in one word? Perseverance,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy about the historic feat. “It was a successful weekend, but it was always a battle. U of A stepped up and pushed back in the second periods of both games, which we’ll face with every team in our conference, but we kept pushing through. To do this on our home ice in front of a really strong crowd with a great group of guys was a lot of fun.”
Friday: GCU 4, Arizona 3
As usual, the first several minutes of the weekend opener was a defensive stalemate, but GCU blew that away midway through the period with two goals in a 19-second span – courtesy of Mason Kruse and Cameron Neaylon scoring off assists from Dylan Dent. It took the Wildcats a full 2nd period of shutting down the Lopes’ offense (just six shots on goal in the period), and finally getting their offense on track to even things up, including reaching the 2-2 tie with a goal with just 14 seconds left in the frame.
In the 3rd period, the Lopes still struggled to find scoring opportunities, but made the most of the last few of their nine shots on the goal in the period. Hunter Schmitz broke the tie with 8:25 left in regulation (on assists from Kruse and Ty Schafer), but UA roared back 90 seconds later to knot it up again at 3-3. The gamewinner brought an extra-big smile to Roy’s face, since he’d watched his team come up empty on their first 15 power-play chances of the young season, but cashed in the 16th with 1:36 left, thanks to the Lopes’ Jacob Cummings, who slapped the puck past UA netminder Nolan Bivolcic for the W.
Saturday: GCU 5, Arizona 2
After finding the power-play antidote Friday, the Lopes used it fully to their advantage throughout the night Saturday, staking themselves to a 1-0 lead after the first period courtesy of a cashed-in power-play from Griffin Duininck midway through the frame. After UA (1-2 overall) tied it five minutes into the second, the power-play became a weapon for GCU again, with Cummings whizzing a shot past UA goalkeeper Niklas Seppannen’s right shoulder to give the Lopes a 2-1 lead. The lead lasted just two minutes this time, though, with UA’s Matthew Marquis stealing the puck in the Lopes’ zone and shooting it past GCU goalie Riley Morgan to knot things up at 2-2 heading into the 3rd period for the second straight night.
That’s where the Wildcats’ offense tired, managing just five shots on goal in the final period, and the Lopes’ fresher legs took advantage, getting goals from Cummings, a power-play shot from Schmitz midway through the third, and a backbreaker from Kruse with four minutes left. Morgan had a banner weekend between the pipes for GCU, saving 58 of the 63 shots on goal that came his way. Schmitz led a balanced Lopes’ attack with a goal each night and three assists on Saturday, while Cummings had three goals and an assist.
The Lopes will spend the next two weekends on the road at Arizona State University this coming weekend, then at the University of Utah October 21 & 22 before the Lopes host the Utes at AZ Ice Arcadia on Thursday, October 27 at 8PM.
(Originally published at https://gcuclubsports.com/news/2022/10/10/mens-ice-hockey-gcu-mens-hockey-sweeps-arizona-for-first-time-ever.aspx)