Lopes unable to find a ‘W’ despite outshooting Utes
By: Taylor Browne/GCU Staff
What the Grand Canyon University Women’s Ice Hockey team lacked in wins, they don’t lack in performance.
Despite dropping the two-game series this past weekend to University of Utah, the Lopes highlighted their ability to outshoot the Utes. Friday, the Lopes fell short with a close 4-3 deficit at their home rink of AZ Ice Arcadia, then suffered a 5-1 defeat on Saturday in a game held in Tucson due to a late conflict that prevented the Lopes from playing the game in Phoenix. The Utes took three of four games from GCU this year after splitting a two-game weekend series with the Lopes in Salt Lake City in November.
“We have a great group of girls who don’t give up,” said Lopes Head Coach Natalie Rossi. “They give it their all every time they are on the ice.”
The Lopes dominated offensively, outshooting the Utes in both games, 51-18 (Game 1) and 49-20 (Game 2). This season, the Lopes are averaging 49 shots per game, well above the division average of 32. Defensively, GCU is allowing just 26 shots against per game, below the division average of 31.
“We definitely have improved our puck possession, (and) it’s noticeable in the shots on net differential when we play teams,” said Rossi. “Last year, we were consistently outshot, and maybe getting 9-10 shots per period. This season, we’re getting 15-20 shots on net and giving up at most 10 shots per period.”
Friday: Utah 4, GCU 3
However, outshooting the Utes wasn’t enough to register a win. Friday night, the Lopes got on the board first with a goal by GCU forward Faith Casola at 2:18 of the first period. The Utes responded with three first-period goals in an eight-minute span to take the lead. After a scoreless second from both teams, Casola inched the Lopes closer with her second goal of the night five minutes into the final period, then Lauren Hart and Kylie Kramer set up GCU’s Annabelle Koethe with the tying goal with just under five minutes left. The teams seemed destined for overtime until the Utes’ Mikayla Dykman snuck the game-winner into the net with 90 seconds left in regulation.
“In the third period, they set their minds on committing to not accepting the score and changing it,” said Rossi. “The girls made a conscious effort to give 100% and outplay Utah in the third period.”
Saturday: Utah 5, GCU 1
The Lopes had trouble finding the execution they needed to come out with a win, but were able to find positives – including increasing their aggressive play.
“As a coach, I love seeing how in control our team was,” said Rossi. “We have talked a lot about playing a strong physical game that requires a lot of angling and understanding how to play body contact. Overall, Utah had a lot of penalties, and we were able to control our emotions and take the mindset of ‘control what you can control’.”
The combination of looking to control the game and bringing a strong physical game wasn’t enough. Utah dominated the first period with five goals, while the Lopes were only able to muster a Koethe goal (on an assist from Casola) late in the second period.
The Lopes will face off against their in-state rivals, Arizona State University, this Friday, Jan. 24 at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe. The puck drops at 8 pm.