Arizona hockey embarks on tough Oklahoma trip
The Arizona hockey team will travel to Oklahoma for a sleep-deprived road trip against two of the nation’s best.
No. 16 Arizona (7-7-0) will play three games in Oklahoma City this weekend, Thursday at No. 6 Oklahoma (10-4-1) and Friday and Saturday at No. 15 Central Oklahoma (6-7-0).
Arizona is coming off its first sweep of a top 10 team — then-No. 8 Oakland — since 2005 and boasts its highest ranking since 2006.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” head coach Sean Hogan said. “I told the guys the message is, ‘Yeah, we played great versus Oakland. They were good wins, but you can’t falter, because we could end up seven days from now in the exact same spot as we were going into the Oakland weekend if we don’t capitalize and jump on these opportunities.’”
It’s Arizona’s sixth weekend in a row of playing ranked teams and third consecutive weekend facing a top ten team.
“We basically got to go in there Thursday night and get the ‘W,’” junior forward Andrew Murmes said. “Central Oklahoma, they’re an easily beatable team. They’re not ranked anywhere near Oakland and we just swept Oakland.”
On Thursday, the Wildcats leave the Tucson Convention Center at 3 a.m. to drive to Phoenix. They fly out at 7:30 a.m. to Denver, have a layover and then fly to Oklahoma City and have three hours to try to nap at the hotel.
Usually the Wildcats leave for road games the day before, but because of the short week and the extra game on the trip — usually two games are played on road trips — they’re leaving Thursday so they don’t miss a week of school, Hogan said.
Arizona is 4-4 on the road, having swept NAU and then-No. 11 Illinois, and having been swept by then-No. 1 Ohio and current No. 1 ASU.
“Hopefully we go out there and get all three, or as many as we can get, and people in the league start taking us a little more seriously,” Murmes said.
Last weekend Oklahoma beat No. 12 Iowa State. The Sooners are led by freshman forward Jordan Greenberg, who has 20 points in 15 games, and Canadian sophomore goalie Colin Fernandes, who has a .930 save percentage.
Freshman forward Riley Spraggs leads Central with 13 points in 13 games. Sophomore goalie Tory Caldwell has a 3.39 goals-against average for Central Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma’s always a fun place to play, they got an unbelievable setup up there,” Murmes said.
Thanks to Texas Christian University’s cancellation last weekend and the cancellation of a series at Rutgers because of Hurricane Sandy, Central Oklahoma is playing its first game in three weeks.
Hogan didn’t know if the time off will hurt Central Oklahoma, but if the team was banged up like Arizona, the rest would’ve allowed it to heal.
“I will suspect that they will come out flying because they had so much time off,” Hogan said.
Central Oklahoma sophomore defenseman Matt Prigge played for Hogan and was a teammate of UA freshman defenseman Nick Hinsberg when Hogan coached the juniors team the Yellowstone Quake in 2009-10.
“He’s a great kid. He works real hard,” Hogan said. “He had a good year last year for Central Oklahoma. I’m running into more and more kids I coached in juniors in college and obviously that’s good. It’s fun to see these guys.”