Lopes face toughest schedule in program history
By: Maria Adams/GCU Club Sports Writing Staff
After an entire year of friendly scrimmages, it’s showtime.
Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey was not completely sidelined last year as they participated in a series of scrimmages against a team from the College Hockey Elite League, but the squad’s appetite for competition was never fully satisfied. The Lopes’ 2021-22 schedule offers the jam-packed lineup of tough competition and challenging road games that the team is hungry for.
“We are very excited to get back into competition,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Natalie Rossi. “The players are dialed in and eager to play real hockey. It has been over a year since we played a real ACHA hockey game with full periods, and with something really on the line.”
The Lopes are set to open their season against local rival Arizona State University tonight (Friday) and Saturday with a two-game series taking place at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
There is nothing “local” about the Lopes’ next few weeks of play. GCU will travel to Colorado to take on both University of Colorado and Colorado State University. Upon returning, the Lopes finally get a taste of that home-ice advantage when they host another Colorado native, the Air Force Academy, at AZ Ice Arcadia (38th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix) on Nov. 6 at noon.
The Lopes’ will cross state lines one more time before the new year when they travel to St. Louis, Missouri to play Lindenwood University, McKendree University, and Maryville University Nov. 12-14.
“We are traveling a lot more this year and playing the hardest schedule we have ever had,” said Rossi. “Our strength of schedule is something that is taken into consideration when deciding our national ranking. The tough schedule is what will set us up really nicely to perform very well in the Western Women’s Collegiate Hockey League Playoffs and later at nationals.”
The Lopes close out the year with seven straight home games against both local and out-of-state schools before they hit the road one last time to take on Midwest powerhouse University of Minnesota on Jan. 28-29 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“We are ready for this level of competition,” said Rossi. “We definitely waited until we were ready, and now that the program is at that point, the players are fired up and excited because they are up for the challenge.”
The Lopes will put that readiness to a test at the WWCHL Playoffs, which are slated to take place Feb. 4-5 and Feb. 19-20.
“Our goal this year, and our goal every year for that matter, is to make it to nationals,” said Rossi. “The WWCHL Playoffs are in Arizona this year and winning that is one route to nationals that we are prepared to fight for.”
If the Lopes make their goal a reality, the ACHA National Tournament will be held in St. Louis, Missouri on March 16-20.
Take a look at GCU Women’s Ice Hockey’s full schedule here!