By: Taylor Browne/GCU Staff
Lesson learned: capitalize on every opportunity.
The Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey team traveled to Sun Devil territory for a two-game set against Arizona State University (14-2), and dropped both games at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe. The Lopes began the series with a tough 6-1 loss on Friday and finished with a close 2-1 defeat on Saturday. The Lopes are 0-4 this season facing the Sun Devils.
“We knew that we would have to capitalize on every opportunity given to us,” said GCU Head Coach Natalie Rossi. “We have been outshooting teams, but not outscoring them, so that was a big focus going into the weekend: shooting with a purpose.”
Despite the losses, the Lopes still outshot ASU on the weekend, earning 33 shots on goal to the Sun Devils’ 24 Friday before each team peppered the opposing goalie with 29 shots on goal apiece Saturday.
“This series, we grew as a program,” said Rossi. “We learned to continue to trust our process and understand that we are building something bigger than the ‘right now’.”
Friday: Arizona State 6, GCU 1
The Lopes were never close Friday night after trailing the Sun Devils, 3-0, after the first period. Outshooting the Sun Devils wasn’t enough, since ASU took a 5-0 lead before the Lopes responded back with their lone goal of the night by Lopes’ forward Cassidy Niemi with just over three minutes left in the second period.
“Cassidy had a hard working five-hole goal,” said Rossi. “She is really coming into her own and gaining some confidence this year.”
Saturday: Arizona State 2, GCU 1
Saturday proved to be much more of a defensive struggle.
“We worked a lot on back-checking and making sure we are playing a smart defensive system,” said Rossi.
The combination of having a strong defensive system and scoring with purpose wasn’t enough to steal a victory from the Sun Devils. Each team scored a goal in the first, with the Lopes’ Faith Casola netting a beautiful, breakaway, short-handed goal midway through the period, her seventh of the season. However, that was all the Lopes could muster offensively, since an ASU goal five minutes into the second period proved to be the last scoring of the night.
“It can be hard to lose the first night and come back fighting the second night, so we were really proud of the girls,” said Rossi. “Rian Braun and Marina Tonna worked especially hard all weekend. Rian goes 100% every shift and makes a difference every time she is on the ice, and Marina has been quite the team spirit this year, leading by example and always lifting others up around her.”
With the road side of the schedule now done, the Lopes can focus on what’s left to cover before their final three home games.
“Looking at playing (University of Colorado) next weekend and then ASU again, we are going to continue working on our puck possession game, clean up our defensive zone and work on capitalizing on opportunities given to us,” said Rossi. “We have improved so much as a team this year and we are excited to continue to move forward.”
The Lopes host No. 7 ranked Colorado in a pair of 11:45 am puck drops on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 8 and 9 at AZ Ice Arcadia.