Arizona hockey's weekend a reflection of rebuilding season
Back when sports journalism was in its formative stages, sports writers used hyperbole and poetical language to review games. It was during this era that Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Henry wrote about a close UA football loss in 1914. He wrote that “the Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats” and thus UA sports teams found their moniker following a student-body vote.
Even though the hockey team has lost four in a row, was swept two weeks in a row, hasn’t beaten a Division I team since mid-November and hasn’t kept a lead since early December, it was impressive Saturday night. The team played like its namesake.
Against a bigger and more experienced Liberty squad, the Wildcats refused to be pushed around or feel sorry for themselves after the string of losses. They literally fought, twice duking it out against the Flames with nearly every player on the ice involved, including a player who left the penalty box to join in.
The Wildcats suffered three painful losses in a row, blowing two-goal leads twice against No. 4 Minot State and a three-goal lead to No. 10 Liberty.
Briana Sanchez / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA goes against San Diego State University with a final score of 9 - 2 on Friday November 30, 2012.
The Wildcats are in the second year of a massive rebuilding project, and rely heavily on head coach Sean Hogan’s first recruiting class. This is the first time in years they have played such a difficult schedule, so in reality, blowing leads like that is almost to be expected.
Arizona uses a lot of young players and isused to playing teams like Texas Tech and San Diego State, not teams from the East stocked with talented Canadian players who can quickly capitalize on mistakes.
On top of that, it looked like they had come back Friday night, only to have a goal, with one second left, waved off.
“I don’t know, I could have sworn I put it in,” senior forward Brian Slugocki said Friday night. “I think [the Liberty goalie] knocked the net off as it was going in and [junior forward] Ansel [Ivens-Anderson] was saying that it didn’t hit the back of the net. But it definitely did trickle over. It’s tough to try and win a game on the last play of the game.”
Unlike the Colorado men’s basketball team, who blew a double-digit lead against the Wildcats and then had a controversial call reverse a last-second shot, the Wildcats didn’t let a controversial call get to them.
After losing to Arizona, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle complained about the call and suggested the NCAA get rid of instant replay.
Hogan didn’t suggest something ridiculous like getting rid of goal judges; he didn’t even bring up the subject until a question about it. Then Hogan asked the reporters if they thought it went in, in the same curious/conversational tone he wondered about the Arizona/Colorado game.
To be fair to the Buffs though, that’s a pretty common reaction. The high of winning is suddenly replaced by a shock loss and it can easily damage a team’s psyche.
That’s what makes the hockey team’s reaction Saturday so impressive. After blowing leads like that and then going behind 3-1 early, it would be natural to roll over.
Slugocki responded with a hat trick and when asked about battling back he said: “You have to do it, there’s nothing really to say about it. You just have to do it.”
Arizona lost Saturday night, 7-5 (including an empty net goal) but they sounded like they couldn’t wait for their next highly ranked foes this week and a chance to show that scrappiness again.