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Friday, April 18, 2014 | Last updated: 11:52pm

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Arizona hockey to learn postseason fate on selection Wednesday



No. 18 Wildcat hockey doesn’t play No. 19 Rutgers this year, but they are going head to head in the final week of the season.

In last week’s poll, Arizona’s (15-20-1) 62-point lead over the Ice Knights (14-8-2) shrunk to nine. Arizona has held the last spot in the big dance since Dec. 7.

“We’re confident,” head coach Sean Hogan said. “I think if you take the entire body of work and what we’ve done and who we’ve played every weekend and where we’ve traveled to and things like that, I think we’re a tournament team.”

While Arizona made the national tournament every year from 1983-84 to 2002-03, never finishing lower than eighth, it has only made it once since then, in 2005-06, when it finished 12th and was bounced in the first round. Rutgers made the last three tournaments but went 0-5 and was outscored 39-16.

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By Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat Hockey vs Oklahoma

“I think there’s a mix of emotions,” senior forward Brian Slugocki said. “Some guys are nervous, but I think the general consensus of the team is that everybody’s excited and hopeful for the best.”

The Wildcats are just 3-11-1 in 2013 and the only ranked team below .500, but they beat No. 6 Oklahoma twice, once on the road, No. 9 Illinois twice on the road, No. 10 Liberty on the road and No. 12 Oakland twice.

“I still think maybe we should be a little bit higher,” Hogan said.

Rutgers’ quality wins are over No. 11 Delaware, No. 14 Navy, twice against No. 16 Stony Brook, one at No. 17 Rhode Island and at No. 23 Westchester twice. The Ice Knights have gone 5-5-1 down the stretch.

Arizona’s strength of schedule is No. 3, while Rutgers’ is No. 23.

“That’s kind of frustrating that this is even a comparison, but we have some losses down the last stretch, and I can see where a lot of the other teams will kind of vote us down, but at the same time, you have to look at who we’ve played, who we’ve beat and I think that should speak for itself,” Slugocki said.

The bracket will be broadcast live for the first time. The selection show will begin at 7:45 p.m. and be broadcast on Liberty’s website, http://www.liberty.edu/index.cfm?PID=21918.

In addition to the rankings and seedings, there will be reports on some teams, like Arizona. The ACHA created a hashtag, #ACHAChicago2013, for viewers to interact with the broadcasters.

Rutgers played 11 road games, never traveling outside of the northeast and mostly going to states that border New Jersey.

According to Google Maps, the team’s road trips were short drives: Three hours to Rhode Island, two to Westchester, two to Delaware and one-and-a-half to Stony Brook.

Arizona had road trips of eight games, three and seven. They traveled to places like Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia and North Dakota.

The Ice Knights did have a road trip to face the Oklahoma schools, but it was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy. However, that gave Oklahoma and No. 15 Central Oklahoma a bye before they hosted Arizona, which went 1-2 in the Sooner State.

Arizona has only won three games this semester, but Rutgers has only won five.

“I think our last month of hockey we’ve been playing pretty well,” Hogan said, “so I’m excited about Wednesday.”

The head coaches of all 55 teams get votes, but two missed votes means the losing of suffrage for the season, and Hogan said only about 40 voted last week.

“If they just go by the last weekend, that might not be in our best interest, but the entire body of work, over the course of the season, I think we stack up pretty well and I like our chances,” Hogan said.

Rutgers is in a conference, unlike Arizona, so that voting block could hurt the Wildcats.

“There probably is some of that for sure,” Hogan said. “We have to rely on that the system will send the best team.”


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