By: Taylor Browne/GCU Staff
A new season presents a clean slate.
The Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey spent the last couple of weeks on the ice preparing for the 2019-20 season. Going into their third season being a part of the Western Women’s Collegiate Hockey League (WWCHL), and competing in Division I of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), the Lopes are ready to face off in their season (and home) opener against the Arizona State University Sun Devils on Friday, Oct. 4 at 6:45 pm.
The Lopes welcome back head coach Natalie Rossi for her third season as they aim to continue to build upon growing ice hockey in Arizona. Rossi returns this season with recognitions such as the 2019 WWCHL Coach of the Year, and the Community Service Award in the ACHA Women’s Division I for their efforts in the community for a second consecutive year.
“I hope that our girls continue to be great role models to the youth players in the valley,” said Rossi. “Each year, we aim to continue grow as a program and each year, we take more steps towards that.”
New Assistant Coach: KC McGinley
As the program continues to grow on and off the ice, GCU has also added an addition to the Lopes’ coaching staff: KC McGinley.
Before being announced as assistant coach, McGinley, who will also be the strength and conditioning coach, made a name for herself as a player, graduating from ASU as a starting defenseman and captain for the Sun Devils’ women’s ice hockey team. She was one of the founding members of the inaugural Devils program in 2016, and also expanded her coaching experience with the Arizona Kachinas 19U team.
McGinley will not only serve as the strength and conditioning coach, but will run the defense during games.
“I was brought on as a coach, but I am excited to be these girls’ mentor,” said McGinley. “I want to improve on their mental side of the game and help them become better people. I believe that good people make good athletes. I want them to win games, but at the end of the day, I want them to be better than they were.”
Strengths and Expectations
The Lopes will have a specific focus in practice to set early expectations for their upcoming games.
“Our main focus this year will be puck possession,” said Rossi. “We want to be a team that dominates every game. Keeping that offensive mindset of keeping the puck is going to be installed this year.”
Of all that the team has seen as improvements from last season, the ability to maintain energy will be the driving force of the season.
“They are coming off the ice after a shift, and talking to one another about what they could be doing better,” said Rossi. “There is constructive criticism across the board, and you can see how excited they are to be the best they can be.”
The culture of the team has grown each year, and Rossi continues to keep that focus on building.
“We are not playing for right now, but we are playing for the future,” said Rossi. “I want our team to be known for working hard. We have built a great reputation for being good people and more teams are recognizing that on the ice as well.”
Starting Friday at 6:45 pm at AZ Ice Arcadia (38th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix, right behind the Sprint Store), the Lopes will be able to bring it all together, beginning with their in-state rivals.