“It’s pretty unique, because the Division 1 champion was Davenport. So we had a pair of national championship teams within a few miles of one another in West Michigan,” Forbes said.
The ACHA is the ruling body of club hockey teams not governed by the NCAA. The Lakers’ hockey team is not associated with the athletic department at GVSU, but is funded by the university’s Student Life department, Forbes explained.
Other Grand Valley club teams such as wrestling and crew have also enjoyed success on the national stage over the years. It’s been slower to develop with GVSU hockey, however, as the Lakers were making just their second trip to the national tournament.
Forbes said Grand Valley’s roster is made up primarily of players from the east side of Michigan, but Mona Shores graduate Jeff Anonick was one west-sider who made his presence felt in the championship tilt, recording two assists.
“We had a 6-1 lead after two periods, and then we held them off in the third period,” Forbes said. “Michigan State had 15 shots in the last four minutes, not so much because they were desperate, but because our kids were too busy celebrating too early on the ice.”
Forbes said his team was battle tested on their road to the showdown with MSU. They compiled a solid 19-10-1 regular season, including a split of two games against Davenport.
The round-robin national tournament began on March 15. GVSU opened with a comfortable 5-1 win over Temple, but then was given a scare by Colorado, as the Lakers squeaked out a 6-5 overtime victory.
Forbes said he felt his team “sealed their fate” in their next contest, a 4-1 win over William Patterson (N.J.) University, which he considered the best team they played while in San Jose.
In the semifinals, the Lakers overpowered Eastern Washington, 8-3, a contest in which both teams had trouble keeping their cool down the stretch.
“(Eastern Washington) was frustrated and let’s say they got a little overly physical near the end. Our kids took offense to it a few times,” Forbes said.
Forbes said this latest achievement in his decorated hockey career has been “truly special.” The Brampton, Ontario native was a former third-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 1977 and also enjoyed a brief stint in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers. He wrapped up his pro career with two seasons with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, before retiring in 1987.
He worked in the Lumberjacks’ front office as well as with two other minor league franchises before taking on the role of commissioner of the Colonial Hockey League in 1994. Today, he’s the general manager at Georgetown Ice Arena, which also happens to be GVSU’s home rink.
Forbes said he was able to catch his former team in action a few times at Georgetown this season, and was extremely impressed with the Bucs’ talent. Grand Haven captured an O-K Conference title in Tier II, but was eliminated in the Division 2 pre-regional by powerhouse Mona Shores.
“I’m still good friends with Dan (Gadbois) and their assistant, Scott Compton, lives in my neighborhood. They’ve done a great job there.”
Forbes is also excited about his future at GVSU, and foresees more success in the immediate future.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here. It’s a great level of play and I’m looking for us to be pretty competitive in the next few years. Our roster is set up pretty good for another run.”