Arizona hockey hosts No. 23 Eastern Michigan for home opener
Wildcat hockey will host its first home games of the year against a familiar foe.
No. 17 Arizona (4-4-0) plays No. 23 Eastern Michigan (5-5-0) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Tucson Convention Center.
“There’s a couple good things about Eastern: they’re definitely an improved team,” head coach Sean Hogan said. “Their head coach is a good buddy of mine.”
The Eagles’ head coach, Kevin Gee, is a member of the Hogan coaching tree. Eastern Michigan is also a fellow founding member of the ACHA in 1991.
In 2009-10, Hogan was the head coach of the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League, a junior league A-level team in Wyoming, where Gee was his on recruiting staff.
“[Gee] brought in some really good players for us, so he’s a guy who really knows talent,” Hogan said. “He’s a good hockey guy, I’ve known him for a lot of years now.”
From 1991 to 2003, Eastern never finished lower than eighth at the national tournament, including second in 1994 and 2000. Currently, the team is still recovering from the hazing scandal in its 2003-04 season.
“They’re a much improved team,” Hogan said. “They always play physical, they’re a physical hockey team over there. They’re going to grind, they’re going to hit.”
The series is Arizona’s first at home after an eight-game road trip started the year, the longest in the top 25, and the Wildcats will be at home for six straight games.
“Guys are anxious to play at home, in front of our own fans,” freshman defenseman Nick Hinsberg said. “Everybody is just really excited to get out there and show the school that we’re a winning team this year.”
Arizona fans will see a different team than the one that went 13-18-2 last year. This year’s team features 11 new players out of the 20 that dress for games.“We’re really excited to show the home fans what we’re capable of doing out here,” senior defenseman Nick Stolz said.