Freshmen Lopes complete comeback in thrilling fashion
By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Of all the ways to announce your presence in a new uniform, this one is at the top of the list.
Freshman defenseman and Peoria native Megan Brodfuehrer knocked home the game-winning goal in overtime for Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey, leading the Lopes over the Arizona State University Sun Devils, 3-2, in both teams’ season opener.
The victory is the second all-time for the program. Both wins have come against the Sun Devils.
“It’s kind of an indescribable feeling,” Brodfuehrer said. “We all just played as a unit and a team. Getting that goal was just like getting it for my family.”
Nearly two minutes into the 3-on-3 overtime period, the speedy line of Brodfuehrer, freshman defenseman Lauren Welsch and freshman forward Brianne Lasky were able to force an offensive zone faceoff to the left of ASU goaltender Jordan Nash-Boulden. On the play, Lasky tied up the ASU defender, in the process sliding the puck toward the front of the net. Brodfuehrer pounced on the loose puck and shot it over the glove of Nash-Boulden and into the net for the winner.
The goal was also Brodfuehrer’s second of the game after opening the scoring in the first period with a shorthanded goal with under five minutes to play in the opening frame.
“It was probably our last shift of the game, so we all just went out there and said, ‘We’re going to go get this. Right now,'” Brodfuehrer said. “I just saw it was an open puck and shot it on net, and hoped for the best.”
To even get the game to overtime, GCU had to come back from a late ASU surge in the third period. The Lopes were able to hold off the Sun Devils in a scoreless second period, but their lead of 1-0 entering the third quickly melted a minute and thirty seconds in when ASU’s Molly Potter finished off a net-front scramble, throwing in a deflected loose puck from the middle of the slot to tie the game. Six minutes later, the Sun Devils added to their momentum on the power play. Alisa Manny won a faceoff in the Lopes’ zone, passing the puck behind her to Alyssa Ayers, whose wrist shot found its way through traffic to give ASU their first lead.
The sold-out, electric atmosphere inside AZ Ice Arcadia kept GCU going as the Lopes continued to push for chances to get back in the game, and their no-quit attitude finally paid off with 3:40 remaining. On a power play, Lasky found room in front of the net and took one shot that was initially saved by Nash-Boulden, but her continued whacks at the puck pushed it across the line to tie the game.
“We are a team that is used to playing from behind, so it wasn’t a downer when it happened,” Lopes Head Coach Natalie Rossi said. “All the girls looked at each other and said ‘It’s time to go to work.’ They went out right after that, and did what they needed to do.”
With a generous mix of freshmen and returners, Rossi relied heavily on her first-year players to skate away with the win. Freshman forward Kaitlyn Zaballos also assisted on Lasky’s tying goal in the third period to go along with Brodfuehrer’s two goals and Lasky’s goal and an assist on Brodfuehrer’s game-winner.
“Our freshmen came in and played big for us,” Rossi said. “That’s what is expected out of them, though. They are a great recruiting class. They, (along) with our solid core that we had coming into this, makes it a good team.”
Last season, GCU and ASU also went to overtime in the season opener – and inaugural game for the Lopes – but finished in a 1-1 tie.
The Lopes outshot the Sun Devils, 43-32, for the game. Junior goaltender Haylee Gannaway made multiple, point-blank stops amongst her 30 overall saves to keep GCU in the game.
GCU and ASU return to AZ Ice Arcadia at 6:30pm Saturday night to cap the two-game season-opening series.