Arizona hockey must defeat Liberty for chance at national tournament
No. 18 Arizona hockey will host another top 10 team a week after a disappointing performance against No. 4 Minot State.
Arizona (13-11-0) will host No. 10 Liberty (14-9-1) on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Tucson Convention Center. The Wildcats are on the bubble for the national tournament and need statement wins. They will get that opportunity against Liberty.
“We have to win one, that’s for sure,” head coach Sean Hogan said.
Junior goalie Steven Sisler said the UA needs to play a full 60 minutes each game to win, but the series represents a chance to increase its national prestige.
Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Hockey played host to rival ASU, Nov. 2, at the Tucson Convention Center.
“It’s important to make a statement that our team’s getting better and better,” Sisler said. “When we get wins against top 10 teams, it says a lot about our team.”
The Liberty Flames have been idle since Dec. 8, when they capped a sweep of Stony Brook. Senior forward Rick Turner has 50 points in 24 games, good enough for fourth in the country.
“This is definitely a big weekend for us,” senior forward Brian Slugocki said. “They’re ranked fairly high. I think we have a good opportunity to play pretty well against them and definitely looking forward to trying to get two wins against them.”
Sophomore forward Ryley Egan and sophomore forward Lindsay LeBlanc have tallied 29 and 25 points, respectively, for Liberty. LU junior goalie Blair Bennett has a 2.97 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
Hogan said Liberty resembles Minot State, which swept Arizona last week after the Wildcats blew it is beatable they are beatable, like the other highly ranked teams Arizona has upset, Illinois, Oakland and Oklahoma.
“Liberty’s a good team; they’re a perennial ACHA nationals team, a lot of big kids, a lot like Minot,” Hogan said.
When Arizona last played the Flames in 2006, Liberty won 10-2 and 5-3. Coincidentally, the 2006 season was also the last time Arizona made the national tournament.
On Saturday, Arizona will stage its second “Skate with the Wildcats” promotion, when fans of all ages will be able to skate with the Wildcats after the game against Liberty.
Fans need to bring their own skates and a charitable canned good to donate. The skate will last an hour.