Lions women look to close out home schedule on high note

Finlandia forward Cassidy Becia crosses over as she adjusts to a turnover during a game earlier this season at the Houghton County Arena in Hancock. (Photo courtesy of Finlandia University)

HANCOCK — Finlandia Lions women’s hockey Mike Kuruc would love nothing more than to reboot his first season in the Copper Country. The Lions are 0-21 overall and 0-12 in NCHA play. However, the record is not why he feels like a reset would be helpful.

His team has been through a lot again this season. At least this time, it is not a coaching issue, but rather a string of unfortunate events from road trips through snowstorms to buses getting stuck before they arrive at the Houghton County Arena, causing delays in the team’s road trips.

Through all of it, Kuruc has tried to remain calm and understanding, and that has rubbed off on his team as well.

Two weeks ago, the team bus got stuck near McAfee Field on its way to the Houghton County Arena, causing the Lions to arrive for their Friday game against Lawrence just 30 minutes prior to puck drop. The Vikings took advantage early, scoring twice in the second half of the first period and getting out to a 3-0 lead before sophomore forward Libby Plath got the Lions on the board. The Lions eventually lost 4-1.

Saturday, the team bounced back and jumped out to a 1-0 lead 12:10 into the second period when senior forward Cassidy Becia scored. The Vikings answered over six minutes later and eventually won the game 3-1, but Kuruc was proud of his team’s effort.

The Lions had last weekend off, which came in handy as they tried to digest the Lawrence series.

“I think it helps a little bit with the team camaraderie stuff,” he said. “You know, they were able to take part of the weekend, hang out together, and gel a little bit away from the rink, which is nice.

“We’re definitely excited for these last couple of games and hopefully finish the season on a high note. But, it was nice to give them a little bit of time off where they can gel as a team a little more, which is great.”

While the team had its issues with getting to Lawrence on time, Kuruc was more concerned with how the team performed once it arrived.

“I thought we played fairly well,” he said. “I think that one of our biggest downfalls, again, was the penalty box, taking too many penalties, and taking penalties at inopportune times, killing momentum. But other than that, I think we battled hard.”

This weekend, Kuruc has instituted some lineup changes in order to give his players a chance to try something different.

“We’ve decided to slide some people around the lineup a little bit just because,” he said. “We don’t have anybody on this team that’s an actual defenseman, so some of the defense we’re (moving to) forward, we’re going to slide some other people back to (defense), and we’re going to move some of the forwards up top around, and see how they’re looking in different positions.”

Scouting the Sabres

The Sabres enter this weekend’s series 6-14-1 overall and 2-10 in NCHA play. They have dropped four straight games to St. Norbert and Aurora after sweeping the Vikings.

Senior forward Booke Anderson leads the team in scoring with five goals and 10 points in 21 games. Senior Alyssa Heim has three goals and nine points in 21 games.

In goal, junior Kayla Kolpitcke has played in 16 games, starting 12 of them. She has a 5-7-1 record with a 2.63 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.

“I think Marian is an incredibly hard-working hockey team,” Kuruc said. “I think they have a great goaltender, and I think they’re very well-rounded when it comes to play in transition, their play in the offensive zone, and their play in the defensive zone.”

Game times

The Lions and Sabres will play the opening game of their series on Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Houghton County Arena. Monday, the two teams will face off at 4 p.m.


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