Slow start to the season

By Sam Brouwere

Sports Reporter

The Griffs’ hockey team went 1-3 in non-conference games to open up the season and are preparing to start up their conference schedule.

On Friday, Oct. 7, the Griffs travelled to Grand Forks, North Dakota, to play the defending National Champion North Dakota Fighting Hawks in a two-game series. On Friday night, the Griffs lost the first game 6-0. Sophomore goaltender Simon Hofley started in the net for the Griffs and would go on to make 29 total saves in the losing effort. Sophomore forward Brock Boeser scored one goal and had three assists for the Hawks.

On Saturday, Oct. 8, the Griffs lost to the Hawks, 4-1. The Griffs were able to score first in the game when freshman forward Nick Hutchinson scored with 4:46 remaining in the first period, giving him his first goal as a Griff. The Griffs held a 1-0 lead until freshman Ludvig Hoff scored for the Hawks with 3:07 into the second period. Senior goaltender Charles Williams played the entire game in the net for the Griffs, making 41 total saves.

Despite the losses in both games, the Griffs had a very good experience of going against arguably the best team in the country. Coach Dave Smith gave his thoughts on the experience of playing North Dakota. “It was a great experience. I think five of the six periods we played well, we played hard, we played together. We had one second period on Friday night that was not what we’re capable of, but we learned and got better as the weekend went on and definitely carried those lessons forward,” said Smith.

On Friday, October 14, the Griffs traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska to participate in the Brice Alaska Goal Rush, which entailed playing both the Alaska Nanooks and the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The Griffs first played the Nanooks on Friday night, winning 2-1 in overtime. The first score in the game came from Nanooks freshman Tristan Thompson at 10:59 in the second period. Sophomore forward Dylan McLaughlin then tied in up for the Griffs when he scored in the third. The game was tied at 1-1 going into overtime and in overtime, senior captain Geoff Fortman got the game winning goal. When asked what it was like scoring the game winning goal, Fortman responded, “It was a lot of fun. It’s always fun to score so I enjoyed that and an overtime goal is even more fun, but I think getting the win was the best part. It was fun as a team and what was fun getting that first win. I think we fought hard that game and we deserved it, so it was good to see that puck go in.”

The Griffs also were helped by very strong goaltending in the win. Senior goaltender Charles Williams made his second start of the season and had 27 saves to help his team win.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, the Griffs faced the Seawolves. Despite strong goaltending from freshman Daniel Urbani, the Griffs would go on to lose by a score of 1-0. The lone goal for the Seawolves came from sophomore Mason Mitchell with 50.3 seconds remaining in the first period. When asked about what his team can take away from the loss, Fortman replied, “I think we played well at times in that game, but I think we can take away the fact that we need to be more consistent. I think we feel like we should have won that game and were the better team, but if we don’t bring it all three periods then there is a chance at the end of the game that we’re going to come up short and that’s what happened. Overall, with the trips we were playing against non-conference teams that we don’t usually get to see and it was a good learning experience for all the guys and hopefully it pays off.”

The Griffs open up conference play this Friday at the HARBORCENTER when they play the Robert Morris Colonials in the opening game of a two-game series. The Colonials come into the game with a record of 1-1 and have the top-two scoring leaders in the conference. Junior forward Brady Ferguson leads the conference with seven points (4 goals and 3 assists). Sophomore defenseman Eric Israel is second in the conference with scoring, having scored six points (1 goal and 5 assists). Coach Smith gave his thoughts on starting off conference play against Robert Morris, “Well, conference play is different. With conference play there is points on the standings and there is just a different type of play and a different type of fierce mentality that happens in conference and we’re excited about that. Robert Morris is a good team, just like every Atlantic Hockey team. They have a few conference games under their belt, two against RIT, so they have that different feeling and we’re looking forward to it.”

After four non-conference games, it will be important that the Griffs perform well in these conference-games, as the results of these games directly impacts the standings and with the low expectations set on the Griffs in the preseason. This could be the first step to showing the conference what this team is capable of.

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