ACHA D2 National Championships: Grand Valley State wins first D2 title with 6-1 win over Michigan State

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Grand Valley State University celebrates first ACHA D2 National Championship in San Jose

ACHA D2 National Tournament Michigan State goaltender Drake Todd

ACHA D2 National Tournament Michigan State forward Zack Rourke

Michigan is a hockey powerhouse in the lower 48, feeding a steady stream of players everywhere from the NHL to the ACHA. At the 2011 ACHA D2 Finals in San Jose on Saturday night, Allendale, Michigan-based Grand Valley State University would face off against the East Lansing-based Michigan State with 44 of 50 players coming from the Great Lakes State. Grand Valley’s game plan against the Spartans? “Just win,” according to assistant coach Jack Williams. Mission accomplished.

GVSU would not flinch early. After goaltender Grant Lyon was forced to make a quick reaction save in the opening seconds, the “Lakers” would carry the play from wire to wire en route to a 6-1 win. Center Ryan Welch scored 33 seconds in, Scott Rood and C.J. Pobur also added first period goals to give Grand Valley State all the margin they would need. With the second largest team in the tournament and an aggressive defense, the Lakers tightened the grip on MSU in the neutral zone. The Spartans had trouble generating offense, and time of possession was lopsided against. A momentum swing presented itself when GVSU rung a shot off the post, and Michigan State created a 3-on-1 rush in the other direction. A backchecking Laker broke up the play and MSU’s best scoring threat of the first period.

Grand Valley came within one game of reaching the ACHA D2 Final Four in 2010, but a 4-3 loss to Colorado knocked them out of the tournament. After winning championships in 2005 and 2007, and performing well in the very deep Central region during the regular season, Michigan State was a favorite among many fans and media. With a level of team speed that was difficult for opponents to match, MSU rolled over Montclair State 6-2, host San Jose State 6-1, and top ranked Florida Gulf Coast 7-3 in pool play. Michigan State downed Michigan in the semis 9-3. In the second period of the title game, the Spartans filed slowly out onto the ice for the second period down 3-0. The Grand Valley bench noticed an opportunity. “Put it on them,” one player noted. “They are tired.”

GVSU continued the strong pace. A Laker defenseman leveled a Michigan State forward with a heavy check against the boards at the blueline. Michigan State forward Steven Short put the green and white on the board at 2:39, but it was all the offensive life they would see in the game. Grand Valley goaltender Grant Lyon made a highlight reel save stretching wide to smother a quick rebound attempt by Anthony Casali on the power play. Michigan State leaned heavily on the speed of forward Zack Rourke. #51 won a defensive zone faceoff, poked the puck off a GVSU forward in stride, and went end-to-end to register a shot on goal on the other side of the rink. Rourke was one of the few forwards able to carry the puck through the neutral zone, but he started to wear down with long shifts and the physical play of GVSU. On their power play, Grand Valley forward Jeff Anonick missed the net with the goaltender Todd out of position on a breakaway. A subsequent pileup on top of Drake Todd was similar to a rugby scrum, and #7 Scott Rood scored his second goal of the game with players falling on both sides of him. Derek Williams and C.J. Pobur added second period goals to effectively put the game out of reach.

ACHA D2 Commissioner Mike Radakovich was interviewed by the broadcast team at second intermission. In subsequent comments to Sharkspage, Radakovich noted the support the tournament received from San Jose State University and the San Jose Sharks, as well as many other volunteers and sponsors. “Everything promised to the tournament was delivered,” Radakovich said. He was surprised at the early lead by Grand Valley State after 40 minutes. Radakovich also noted that the seperate ACHA Divisions (d1, d2, d3) are not strictly related to talent or experience, different divisions have different registration and credit requirements.

The third period started similar to the first two, with Grand Valley State controlling the play and creating several scoring chances in the MSU zone. With 4 minutes left in the contest, Michigan State started to play desperation hockey finally getting the puck deep and keeping it there. On two extended shifts, GVSU defenseman Dylan Dault battled MSU’s Kevin “Blue Ribbon” Pabst for position in front of the net. The refs basically let everything go, and Dault and Pabst jousted before, during and after play resumed. In the final minute, Anthony Brown tried to push home a loose rebound in front of Grand Valley goaltender Grant Lyon. Lyon blocked the net down low, and center Jeff Anonick shoveled Brown off the goaltender and pointed at the scoreboard. Two more point shots would be fired on goal in the final seconds, and the 24/5 positional battle in front continued.

After the final horn, Grand Valley players mobbed their goaltender behind the net. Five stars of the tournament final named by the ACHA: 1-Grant Lyon GVSU, 2-C.J. Pobur GVSU, 3- Josh Bareis MSU, 4- Derek Williams GVSU, 5-Stephan Short MSU. Comcast’s Randy Hahn was not the hardest working hockey broadcaster in the Bay Area for his work Saturday night against the Blues. The San Jose State broadcaster played the national anthem on guitar, called out the penalties and the goals, and handed out the championship trophy after the game.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

[Update] Post-tournament MVP award and first and second team tournament allstars:

Tournament MVP: #16 Derek Williams (Grand Valley State)

1st Team
F #16 Derek Williams (Grand Valley State)
F #51 Zack Rourke (Michigan State)
F #11 Eric Hess (Michigan State)
D #2 Eric Emblad (Michigan)
D #8 John Bareis (Michigan State)
G #31 Grant Lyon (Grand Valley State)

2nd Team
F #12 Bradley Keough (Grand Valley State)
F # 11 Mike Lendino (Florida Gulf Coast)
F #61 Shaun McTigue (William Paterson)
D #28 Shane McCusker (Grand Valley State)
D #26 Stephen Terrio (Siena)
G # 30 Tyler Murphy (Miami)

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