By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
After a long offseason of practicing and heavy recruiting, the new season is almost here. Now, it’s time to start looking ahead at who Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey will meet for their second season of competition.
Even with a shorter schedule of only 17 games, the Lopes will still face some of the top teams from across the country. This year’s schedule contains five teams who finished last season ranked in the top 15 of the American Collegiate Hockey Association Women’s Division I poll, including two – University of Colorado and University of Minnesota – which made it to the 2018 ACHA National Championships.
The Lopes will travel for two lengthy road trips where they will see much of that tough competition in the same respective weekend. The first will be in Colorado October 18-21 at the Western Women’s Collegiate Hockey League (WWCHL) Showcase, where GCU will play four games in four days against University of Denver twice, Colorado State University and Colorado. The second weekend road trip will be November 8-10 in Fremont, Nebraska, where the Lopes will play twice each against Midland University and Grand Valley State University, both of whom ended last season in the top 15. That trip also concludes with a Saturday day-night doubleheader against the two teams.
“The WWCHL Showcase is the best weekend that we have,” Lopes’ Head Coach Natalie Rossi said. “I like that because we see three different teams there, and we get to see all the other teams who play in the league. It will also be a nice, competitive weekend against Midland and Grand Valley State, who we haven’t seen before.”
The rivalry with Arizona State University will continue as the Lopes and Sun Devils match up six times this season, playing four games at each other’s home rink in separate two-game weekends, and then twice more at a to-be-determined neutral location.
“It’s a cross-town rivalry that’s exciting for the players,” Rossi said. “Every time we have played them has been a close game so far. We’re always looking for those to continue to be good, competitive games with a chance to use those games to grow girl’s hockey here in Arizona.”
Including the games against ASU, the Lopes will play five times at their new home rink, AZ Ice Arcadia. GCU will host Colorado State University November 4, then welcome Minnesota January 26 and 27. The Lopes will aim for their first-ever playoff appearance in the WWCHL Playoffs to be played at City National Arena in Las Vegas.
GCU will play two exhibition games September 22 and 23 at AZ Ice Arcadia against the New Mexico Mustangs U19 team before officially opening the season the next weekend at home against ASU.