Lions look to close out season strong against Falcons

MEQUON, Wis. — To say it has been a difficult year for the Finlandia Lions women’s hockey team, would be an understatement. The Lins are 0-23 on the season and 0-14 in the NCHA in coach Mike Kuruc’s first season. The team set an NCAA record for goals against (19) and saves in a loss at Adrian (111).

Despite the uphill battle the Lions have had all season, Kuruc says that the spirits of the team are still high. They all knew they were in for a hard transition, but he feels that the team has already begun to slowly reap the benefits of putting the work in, even if the results are not there yet.

“I think our room is great,” he said. “We have a lot of fantastic kids on this team that are just bubbly, that love the game, that love being around the girls, that just love that entire aspect of it, and it makes things pretty cool.”

Last weekend, the Lions played a rare Sunday-Monday series with Marian. On Sunday, they lost 5-1, but Kuruc felt the team played well. On Monday, a two-and-a-half stretch cost the Lions, who went from being down 1-0 to 3-0 in that span.

Kuruc felt that if the team played the way it had on Sunday, they would have won Monday.

“I really thought the effort was good Sunday,” he said. “Monday, I wasn’t as pleased with the effort that we put out. We’re trying to push through to the end of the year here.”

One highlight from Friday’s game was the goal by senior forward Peyton Airaudi. The goal was set up by a smart play from sophomore Arwen Sims, who was playing forward for the first time all season.

“Arwin Sims moved up to the wing (and) was unbelievable for us on the wing,” Kuruc said. “We had a lot of good line chemistry. She played with Peyton Airaudi and Cassidy Becia. It was our third line at that point, but they were flying, and then, obviously, Peyton got one on Sunday.”

Sims has been one of five girls this season who has spent more time playing defense than the forward position she was recruited as, because the Lions simply did not have enough defensemen on roster when Kuruc took the head coaching position, and there was no time to recruit before he had to get started with the roster he had coming in.

Still, he has, all season, tried to keep that issue from being the defining issue for the team all season long.

“It’s tough to have a high level of success, when it comes to the tangible success, the winning games, the scoring goals, things like that, when you don’t have people playing the positions that they should be in,” said Kuruc, “that part of it is really tough.”

Kuruc feels that he should be able to add some defensemen through a combination of recruiting freshmen and the transfer portal, and once they have pieces in place, things should start to improve as he will be able to hold players accountable every night.

Scouting the Falcons

This weekend, the Lions travel to face the Concordia (Wisconsin) Falcons. The Falcons are 12-10-1 on the season and 7-7 in NCHA play after a sweep last weekend of Lawrence and a 2-1 loss on Tuesday to Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

A hard-working team that will make you earn every inch of ice, the Falcons are led offensively by sophomore Amanda Bauer, who has 10 goals and 23 points in 23 games. Freshman Makayla Spejcher is also off to a strong start with 11 goals and 20 points in 23 games.

In goal, senior Annalina Van Hercke has been solid in 18 appearances. She is 8-9-1 with a 2.60 goals against average and a.930 save percentage.

Game times

Opening faceoff between the Lions and Falcons is set for 8 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s contest is set to start at 5 p.m.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today