GCU men’s team soaking up ‘fantastic’ atmosphere at AZ Ice Arcadia
The Grand Canyon University ACHA Division II men’s team calls AZ Ice Arcadia home for the current 2018-19 season, and head coach Daniel Roy has the Lopes off to a fantastic start.
Starting out the season with a tie and a shootout win over Arizona State University’s ACHA Division I team, GCU then went on a five-game winning streak that included weekend sweeps against ASU’s Division II team and Northern Arizona University’s D-II squad.
“Our goal is for our program to be better each season and the first 10 games of this season have been the best start we have had in these first three seasons,” said Roy. “Our players seem to get along every season, which is great to see. We are still a young program trying to build a winning team culture from scratch and there have been challenges along the way, but we seem to find our way at some point within the season where everyone is buying in and playing for each other.
“With a young program, it takes some time for the entire group to learn and trust each other’s personalities.”
So far this season, Roy said his team has seen big contributions from senior forward Wyatt Grant, sophomore defenseman Sullivan Murphy and sophomore forward Jeff Payne, who have gelled really well with freshman forwards Zach Bennett and Declan Carter, especially on the powerplay where the Lopes seemed to struggle last year.
Playing at AZ Ice Arcadia has been a plus for the program as well.
“We have the best fans and always see a great turnout for all our home games,” said Roy. “The location of Arcadia has really helped with getting more GCU fans to our games. We have only played a few home games at Arcadia since our move over, but the fan support has been fantastic, which always makes it more enjoyable for the players.
“Having the support of the Arizona Titans program and the Kachinas girls program has been incredible for the players, allowing them to be role models on game nights and being able to have special events during pregame for the youth players.”
The fast start now in the rear-view mirror, Roy has his club focused on what’s to come.
“Our expectation is to make the national tournament in Dallas this year,” Roy said. “We hit our goal of qualifying for our regional tournament last year and now we want to get to the national tournament. We have a team that can get it done as long as we take care of the steps along the way.
“In addition to that, we have been accepted to move up to ACHA D-I for the 2019-20 season and are hopeful that we will be able to step right in as a competitive team in our first season. The goal from the beginning has been to build our program to the highest level possible. To be a successful program in reaching our short-term and long-term goals, we strive to improve every season and be better than the last.”
Roy also noted that with the recent success of ASU’s NCAA D-I team, which entered the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll for the first time on Nov. 12 ranked No. 18, that can only help ACHA hockey in the state.
“The ACHA has been growing each year and the teams in the West have been getting stronger,” said Roy. “The hope is that we see four ACHA D-I men’s teams in Arizona soon (ASU, U of A, GCU, NAU) and a possible Arizona ACHA in-state tournament between the four teams.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Nov. 28, 2018)