Antelopes finish inaugural inline hockey season on major roll
Grand Canyon University got a late start to its inaugural Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League (WCRHL) schedule in 2019-20 but proved fast finishers after collecting three wins in its final regular-season event Feb. 15-16 in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Previously, the Antelopes hadn’t won more than one game in any regular-season event.
“The team played very well in HB during our last weekend of regular season games,” club president Jack Garcia said. “We were able to secure our very first winning weekend and continue to grow as a team both on and off the rink.”
GCU came up with three big wins to start the Huntington Beach event by defeating Northern Arizona University’s Division IV team by a score of 15-2, West Valley College (JC Division) by a score of 11-5 and Division II rival Chico State 9-8.
The Antelopes split with Chico State by dropping a 10-5 decision in a rematch at the tournament. GCU closed out regular season play with a 13-4 loss to Arizona State University’s Division I team.
The positive 3-2 showing allowed the fledgling Antelopes to finish their 16 regular season games with a respectable 5-11 record. The team finished in fourth place in the Division II standings behind Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (13-3), Chico State (10-3-0-3) and Northern Arizona University (10-5-0-1).
The Antelopes defeated the University of Arizona’s Division III squad 10-1 on Dec. 8 to pick up their history-making first win and edged UC Santa Barbara’s Division III team 6-5 on Jan. 11 to collect its second win.
GCU was one of two new clubs in the WCRHL’s 2019-20 season, joining the University of Nevada-Reno, which finished 3-13 in the Division III standings.
The Antelopes swept the three star selection in the win over NAU’s Division IV team as Nick Marolda collected three goals and two assists as the game’s First Star, Jeffrey Payne recorded five points (three goals and two assists) as the game’s Second Star and Drew Murchison captured Third Star honors with three goals and one assist.
GCU also swept the three star awards in the win over West Valley as Payne racked up four goals and two assists as the First Star, Kyle Decoster earned the Second Star award with three goals and two assists and Mark De La Fuente picked up Third Star honors with two goals and one assist.
Payne was the First Star with five goals and one assist in the win over Chico State while Garcia was named Second Star with one goal and three assists.
“The team was able to secure our first winning weekend in program history by playing smart hockey all weekend in every zone and converting on our scoring chances as well as being strong in our defensive zone,” Garcia said.
Garcia said team has grown much over the course of the season.
“With the late start and being a new program, the team feels we exceeded our own expectations for how the year would go,” Garcia said. “Even as far back as the Queen Creek weekend at the beginning of February, despite going 0-3, we were in close games against NAU (Division II) and CSU-Fullerton (Division I) that have had programs established for years.
“Everyone on the team has put in their best efforts both on the rink and away from the rink as well which has helped this team grow.”
Payne led the Antelopes in team scoring with 27 goals and 39 points in just 10 games, followed by Murchison with 17 goals and 31 points in 15 games.
The team’s top defensive contributors included Decoster with 14 goals and 29 points in 16 games and Garcia with 10 goals and 26 points in 16 games.
All nine players on the team scored at least one goal.
– Phillip Brents
(April 7, 2020)