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College Hockey: Finlandia women continue progress

HANCOCK — With losses of 6-3 and 4-0 at Aurora last weekend, head coach Matt Marchel was pleased to see his Finlandia Lions women’s hockey team take another big step. While they are still 0-5 on the season and 0-2 in NCHA play, the Lions are beginning to find the net, which is encouraging.

Marchel was extremely happy to see his group show some fight in Friday’s loss, as they fell behind 5-0 just 1:32 into third period before rattling off three goals.

“We dominated for stretches of Friday,” he said. “We need to score more goals. It doesn’t help us to have possession if we don’t score. We had a nice little comeback there in the third period, which was great. We had them shaking.

“We scored three in the third and got them a little bit nervous there. When you’re scoring goals, smiles come across the bench. It’s a lot more fun. We played good for long stretches of that game and not just played good but dominated possession and had it in their zone, making plays, and getting creative with it.”

Opening faceoff for Friday night’s contest is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Houghton County Arena. Saturday’s game is set to start at 4:15 p.m.

Freshman forward Kylee Hopp scored two of the three goals, the first shorthanded and the second off a feed from senior forward Kait Ryynanen with just under seven minutes left in the game. The goals were the first two of Hopp’s collegiate career, and Marchel was thrilled to see her get on the board so early in the season.

“I knew she was gonna score,” said Marchel. “I knew she was going to start pouring them in eventually. She just has a knack for it when she gets the puck around the net. That’s good to see.

“I think that’ll be a kind of a monkey off her back. She went the first three games without scoring. She expects more on herself I think based on what she’s done in the past for her high school team. No doubt, she’ll be a good goal scorer for us.”

Hopp and Ryynanen showed some early chemistry in team practices, and for Marchel, there is no surprise the duo lead the team in scoring with seven points combined through five games.

“It’s not surprising because what I did see in this little two-on-two drill that we did, these two were just working off each other, criss crossing, making drop passes, and just feeding each other. It’s not surprising, but it’s awesome that they see it now.”

This weekend, the Lions are finally home as they play host to St. Norbert. The Lions and Green Knights shared some practice time before the season began, which gave both teams a chance to play a friendly scrimmage, which the Lions won.

The Green Knights, who are coached by former Michigan Tech Huskies forward A.J. Aitken, are 0-3 to start the season, having lost twice to Wisconsin-Eau Claire and once to Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Aitken, who had spent 11 years as an assistant with the Green Knights’ men’s program, took over the women’s program this summer.

Freshman Eve Parker has the lone goal on the season for the Green Knights.

Junior goaltender Anais Aurard is 0-3 through three games with a 4.17 goals against average and an .846 save percentage.

While the Green Knights have struggled out of the gate, Marchel has made sure his girls know that this will be a tough weekend.

“They’ve got a group of talented individuals,” he said. “They have a good number of girls that are good, smart, heads-up players that can move the puck, and they can shoot.”

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