Hockey gets another shot at No. 10 Liberty
When Arizona hockey faces a familiar foe, the Wildcats will get an opportunity for revenge and maybe a chance at a ticket to the big dance.
Fresh off an important win over No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 18 Arizona (14-15-0) will travel to Lynchburg, Va., to face No. 10 Liberty in a two-game series Friday and Saturday, seeking to solidify a spot in the national tournament and pay back the Flames.
“It’s a big weekend for us; beating Oklahoma was huge … it kept us alive,” head coach Sean Hogan said.
Just two weeks ago the teams faced off in Tucson, with Liberty earning the sweep, 7-6 and 7-5.
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat Hockey vs Oklahoma
In the first game, Arizona blew a three-goal lead. In the second, the Wildcats overcame deficits twice, including trailing 3-1, but they lost late and surrendered an empty net goal.
“I think personally we’re pretty upset about those two games, but I know the team’s gonna bounce back,” freshman defenseman Bryan Drazner said. “Those two games we had them on the ropes, so I think if we play our game, we can most definitely come out with two wins.”
The Flames (17-9-2) have only played once since the series in Tucson, a 5-2 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday.
Arizona is 2-6 in 2013, but all of its losses, except a 4-0 defeat to Oklahoma, were by a goal or two, and all were to higher ranked teams. Arizona avenged the OU loss a night later to take the season series from the Sooners.
After wrapping up a 12-game home stand, the Wildcats will go on a seven-game road trip that will take them to Liberty, No. 1 ASU and No. 4 Minot State. Arizona is 0-8 against those three teams this season.
“I think if we get two more wins in this last six, we’re in for sure,” Hogan said. “I think if we win one we have a pretty good shot. If we get a sweep this weekend I think we’re in for sure.”
Arizona needs to be ranked in about the top 18 to make its first national tournament since 2006.
“Even though we’re only .500, we have a really hard schedule,” Hogan said.
Senior forward Rick Turner leads the way for Liberty with 60 points, and sophomore forward Lindsay LeBlanc has 34. LU junior goalie Blair Bennett has a 3.00 GAA and a 0.91 save percentage.
Sophomore forward Ryley Egan scored two third-period goals in the 7-6 game. Sophomore forward Luke Baumgarten had a hat trick in the other game.
Hogan isn’t sure yet who will start at goalie, saying it will likely be a game-day decision both games. Instead of the usual two, all three goaltenders will make the trip.
Injuries opened a spot for third goalie to travel, and only 21 Wildcats will go on the trip instead of the usual 22 because of injuries and illness.
Junior Steven Sisler (9-12) was the No. 1 goalie but gave way to sophomore Robert Schultz (3-3) after the first Liberty game. Freshman Dylan Hojnacki (3-0) won the Oklahoma game last week.
“We’re pretty fortunate that we have three goalies playing well right now,” Hogan said.
The Flames play in the LaHaye Ice Center, one of the ACHA’s signature venues.
“It’s obviously much smaller than ours, but it’s packed,” Hogan said. “There won’t be a single seat available, and it will be really loud.”
The LaHaye Ice Center seats 3,000 close to the ice.
“Upsetting the home crowd is fun,” Drazner said. “Playing in those types of atmospheres is awesome.”
The games can be viewed at:
They are both at 5 p.m. MST.