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Lack of late opportunities sends GCU Women’s Ice Hockey to 3-2 loss

GCU Women's Hockey vs. CHEL 3-6-21
March 7, 2021

Fatigue sabotages GCU in scoreless 3rd period Saturday at AZ Ice Arcadia

By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director

At puck drop Friday, the adrenaline of playing an opponent for the first time in 13 months made the layoff feel like nothing.

By the 3rd period Saturday at AZ Ice Arcadia, reality officially set in as the grind of the Grand Canyon University Women’s Hockey team’s first back-to-back series of the year led to just 12 shots on goal in a 3-2 loss to a team from the College Hockey Elite League. Saturday’s loss followed a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime defeat at the hands of the same squad at CHEL’s home ice of Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe Friday.

“We need to generate a lot more offense,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Natalie Rossi. “We were controlling the puck and battling hard – just like we asked the players to do. Now, we need to start taking that next step and converting that puck control to more shots on net and obviously more goals.”

The Lopes’ energy came in stops and fits, but that was enough to keep them within striking distance throughout, and even give them the lead midway through the game. After allowing a CHEL power-play goal in an otherwise scoreless 1st period, the Lopes came out firing to start the 2nd frame. GCU took advantage of their first power-play opportunity of the night with deft passing by two Phoenix-area freshmen, Megan Daniele and Arianna Harden, who both got assists after junior Lauren Welsch’s shot hit the back of the net two minutes into the period to tie the score. The momentum carried the Lopes to a 2-1 lead less than three minutes later when Daniele’s 2nd assist of the night set up GCU sophomore forward Emmie Wahlgren, who put the puck past CHEL netminder Hallie McClelland.

“(Megan) came out tonight and worked her butt off, which we talked about before the game,” Rossi said. “Last night, she didn’t come and work as hard as she should’ve, but today, she made those changes, and made some great plays on those two goals.”

That might’ve been good enough to get the Lopes their first win of the year if CHEL hadn’t brought Sami Lutsch. The Lopes simply couldn’t keep the Gurnee, Illinois native in check, and Lutsch’s two goals in a 45-second stretch late in the 2nd period not only gave her a ‘hat trick’, but staked CHEL to the lead for good.

CHEL outshot the Lopes from Saturday’s outset, peppering Lopes’ goalie Ally Goehner with 27 shots on goal in her first career collegiate start. However, the teams combined for just nine 3rd-period shots, and even fewer bonafide chances in a scoreless final stanza.

The likely culprits? The combination of the yearlong layoff’s effect on stamina – combined with the ‘COVID-friendly’ revamped game format, which shaved the length of each of the three periods down to 15 minutes, but also shrank each intermission to just 120 seconds.

“The recovery time is taken from us in that way,” said Rossi. “We have some improvements to make, since we need to focus for 45 minutes straight, and not need that break in-between.”

The Lopes will have some time to work on their stamina before they hit the last two weekends of their COVID-abbreviated schedule. The two teams will square off in two more “home-and-home” series during the month of March, with the first two-game set commencing Friday, Mar. 20 at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, then winding up at AZ Ice Arcadia on Saturday, Mar. 21. Puck drop on Saturday is scheduled for 7:45 pm.

Interested in getting involved in GCU Women’s Hockey? Click here for more info.

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