UA hockey team captain Slugocki a leader on and off the ice
Brian Slugocki wasn’t even sure he was going to play hockey when he came to the UA, but he ended up being arguably the most important Arizona player ever.
The senior and three-year captain leads the UA in goals with 25 and has re-energized the once-decaying Arizona hockey program. As Arizona Wildcats club hockey president in 2011, Slugocki led the change from the Icecats to Wildcats.
“He’s been a big key in this transition, not only as a leader on the ice, but a leader off the ice as well,” head coach Sean Hogan said. “A guy that scores like he does will definitely be missed.”
Arizona missed the national tournament for the seventh straight season, but it does have 15 wins this year, its most since 2007-08. Seven of those are top-10 wins, its most since 1997-98, and the team also earned its first road sweep of an out-of-state team since 2000-01 and swept two top-10 opponents for the first time since 2005-06.
“It’s miles ahead of what it used to be,” Slugocki said about the Arizona hockey program.
“We couldn’t have competed with a lot of the teams we played this year and we definitely couldn’t have beaten them,” Slugocki said. “Coach always says that when I was a freshman, we had zero wins against DI teams.”
Slugocki was elected captain by his fellow Wildcats in three of his four years.
“A guy who’s been captain since his sophomore year, that’s pretty rare,” Hogan said. “He’s been captain the two years I’ve been here and he’s done a good job.”
Under Leo Golembiewski, the head coach of 32 years, the Icecats picked the captains. Slugocki was co-captain his sophomore year with then-junior Geordy Weed.
“It’s pretty unusual; he’s been captain since he was a sophomore and then through the whole transition of the program,” said assistant coach Dave Dougall, who was an Icecat captain for two seasons. “It speaks to the character of Brian really, the type of kid he is. He put a lot into the program.”
Slugocki said that he and Brady Lefferts, who graduated last year, did everything from interviewing coaches to designing uniforms to setting practice schedules during the transition in 2011. He added that they received over 115 applications for head coach.
“We stayed over the summer and got a lot of stuff done,” Slugocki said. “It was definitely a stressful time in my life, but I was glad I was able to get through it.”
Slugocki is third on the team in points with 45, two behind the leader, and he has 20 assists.
Slugocki had three hat tricks this year, including one against then-No. 8 Oakland and one against then-No. 10 Liberty.
“I wanted to be the guy that people could count on to score goals,” Slugocki said. “I think I’m leading in goals on the team and I’m glad I could contribute to the team in that way.”
The Scottsdale, Ariz., native is second in the nation in power play goals with 13.
Hogan said Slugocki was the first to do volunteer work like reading to kids in classrooms.
“It took a lot of courage and a lot of hard work and determination,” said Dougall, who has been assistant coach for seven years. “He was really involved in the process when we hired Sean and everything, changing the program from what it was to what it is now. So I think it’s a great feather in his cap.”
The Wildcats didn’t make the national tournament, but at the end of the Icecats era, the team wasn’t even playing enough Division I teams to be eligible for nationals.
“This is definitely what we wanted,” Slugocki said. “We wanted to be able to go to nationals because beforehand, we weren’t even eligible to go to nationals. But this is definitely the direction the team needs to go in and the future’s only going to get better.”