Hockey goalie Hojnacki makes 'unbelievable' Division I start
Freshman goalie Dylan Hojnacki was so low on the Wildcat’s hockey depth chart to open the season that his name was spelled incorrectly on the ACHA website.
But Saturday, he may have saved Arizona’s season. Hojnacki made his first start against a Division I team.
The freshman played a key role in Arizona’s 4-3 overtime shoot out win over No. 5 Oklahoma. Hojnacki made 31 saves, plus two in the shoot out and had a 0.916 save percentage.
“It’s a huge win, it turned the season around,” Hojnacki said.
“After six losses, I felt like we really needed to win and we got it done.”
Head coach Sean Hogan called Hojnacki’s performance “unbelievable.”
“Dylan did great. I was waiting for him to get a chance,” junior forward Ansel Ivens-Anderson said. “I was really excited for it once they gave it to him and I mean obviously it speaks for itself, he went out there and played huge the whole game, made big saves and then came up huge in the shoot out too.”
The win was important as Arizona will embark on a seven-game road trip where they will face No. 8 Liberty, No. 1 ASU and No. 3 Minot State.
Hojnacki learned he would start Saturday when the lineup was texted to the Wildcats at noon that day.
“I was really excited for the chance,” Hojnacki said. “I’m all excited to go out there and play. I’m just glad I had the opportunity.”
For the season, Hojnacki (3-0) has played 185 minutes, has a 2.59 goals against average, given up eight goals in 79 shots, made 71 saves and has a 0.90 save percentage.
“He’s a consummate team guy,” Hogan said. “All he wants to do is win and then goes and performs like this. The kid’s great, I’m proud of him.”
Before Saturday, he had only dressed for three games: two he started and one playing back up.
“Every time he’s gotten an opportunity, he’s played well and this one’s a big one for him,” Ivens-Anderson said.
In his debut, the Chandler, Ariz. native was scored on twice by San Diego State, made 23 saves and had a 0.920 save percentage. A week later against NAU, he had three goals scored on him, made 17 saves and had a 0.85 save percentage.
Hogan said he thought it was hard to face a team like Oklahoma in his first game action in about a month, but Hojnacki downplayed it.
“I’m sure it’s tough,” Hogan said. “He did a great for us and he won the game for us, it was phenomenal. We’re proud of him.”
At the beginning of the season, Arizona held a goalie competition, where sophomore Robert Schultz and junior Steven Sisler played in games.
Sisler won the job, but after senior David Herman was dismissed from the team, the Wildcats lost a handful of games to open 2013 and Schultz started; Hojnacki got his chance.
“He’s just a good all around goalie, he’s a big kid, he’s got size for a freshman,” Ivens-Anderson said. “We didn’t know too, too much about him coming in, but right from the first day he really surprised a lot of people, showed he belonged.”
Unlike the UA’s other freshmen, who were recruited from the juniors level, Hojnacki came directly from, playing for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes.
“It’s a good team, a real good program actually. They’ve produced NHL talent and Division I talent,” Hogan said. “They said he’s a fundamental goalie, who just wants to work and just wants to earn a spot.”
While Hojnacki chose the UA to play hockey, he said he didn’t decide to try out until after enrolling. Because of construction to the Tucson Convention Center though, try outs had to be cut down to one tense day.
“That was pretty nerve racking, we had a one day tryout,” Hojnacki said. “I had to make sure I really showed my stuff in that two hour slot and I’m glad they picked me.”