By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
It was everything you wanted from a rivalry: speed, hits and a high-energy atmosphere.
A comeback, overtime and a thrilling tie ending was added in for extra measure.
In their first game in program history, the Grand Canyon University women’s ice hockey team came back from down 1-0 with under seven minutes to play in the third period and held on in overtime for a 1-1 tie against Arizona State.
While on the power play, GCU finally broke through as Shilo Cederberg threw the puck on net from the left circle. Emily Exner scrambled and poked home the loose puck for the tying and first-ever goal in program history.
Arizona State and GCU continued to battle into overtime, but settled for a 1-1 tie to open the season for both teams.
“Really exciting,” GCU women’s ice hockey coach Natalie Rossi said. “It was awesome to watch the girls play and keep up that energy the way that they did.”
Each side traded chances within a scoreless first period. GCU led in shots 12-5 after one and continued to pepper ASU goaltender Jordan Nash-Boulden with shots in the second, but couldn’t find the back of the net. ASU broke the scoreless game in the second as Amber Galles outraced GCU defenders and slipped the puck past Lopes goaltender Haylee Gannaway halfway into the frame.
The pace and aggression picked up into the third and overtime periods with each team earning power play opportunities at crucial times. The Lopes had an advantage with 30 seconds remaining in regulation and it continued into overtime, but was unable to capitalize.
In overtime, GCU found itself on the wrong side of the special teams as the Lopes had to work around two minor penalties, but its penalty kill stepped up and kept the game knotted at 1.
“I’m very happy with our penalty kill,” Rossi said. “They did a great job stepping up, adjusting to a three-man penalty kill.”
Overall, the Lopes outshot ASU 35-20. Much of the strength and adrenaline was due to the natural rivalry, but the Lopes also fed off a raucous crowd that continued to build as the tension did the same.
“The crowd was awesome,” Rossi said. “It was really exciting to have the chanting going on and girls definitely fed off that energy.”
Lopes drop Saturday-night rematch
In the second game of the weekend series, ASU took advantage of GCU penalties and came away with a 4-1 victory.
The Lopes were penalized four times in the first period and the Sun Devils capitalized with two power play goals. ASU led 3-0 after one and tacked on another halfway into the second period.
“The first eight minutes we were pretty good, but the effort level went down after that,” Rossi said. “We weren’t keeping up, we took a couple of penalties there and it hurt us.”
GCU’s lone goal came with under two minutes remaining in the third period. Rebecca Sanda’s shot from the blue line was tipped and clanked off the post, but Jenna Kimbrel dove in front and put home the loose puck.
GCU led in shots 40-33.
The Lopes have a week of practice before traveling to Illinois and Missouri next weekend, where they will face McKendree University once and Lindenwood-Belleville twice.
“We need to work on playing a full 60 minutes of hockey,” Rossi said. “Not playing the second half of the first period really hurt us. But the girls understand that playing a full 60 minutes is the way we have to play.”