Season three of Wildcat hockey begins
Third-year head coach Sean Hogan has the highest expectations for Wildcat hockey.
He made this clear to his players at the start of the very first team meeting.
“We’re in year three of my tenure here, and the future of this program is now,” Hogan said. “We’re going to be completely 100 percent committed to winning: winning as a hockey program, winning as a team and winning as a family.”
Arizona is 19th in the preseason ACHA Division I coaches’ poll. After ending last season with a 15-22-1 record and a No. 20 ranking, the team missed the postseason for the seventh straight year.
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat
On their 28-man roster, the Wildcats have 18 returners, including a senior class of six.
The team is fortunate to bring back two of its top three point-scorers in senior forwards Andrew Murmes and Ansel Ivens-Anderson. After scoring 17 goals with 31 assists, Murmes’ 48 total points led Arizona for the second straight season. Ivens-Anderson, who was selected as captain last Friday, tied for second on the team, accumulating 46 points on 22 goals and 24 assists.
“A lot of the returners have played under me for two years now, and we’ve had two good years of culture change and I think they really get it now,” Hogan said.
Hogan’s recruiting class features nine players with a wide variety of skills and experience winning. Freshmen Wildcat forwards Alex O’Dea and Grant Nicholson and defenseman Alex Vazquez were recent junior hockey championship winners. Forward Zach Morgan was also captain of the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division I State Champions.
“I know what it takes to win, and I want it again,” Vazquez said. “After winning with my last team, I don’t want to be losing. Hogan will be making sure we get the W’s.”
After Arizona’s annual open camp, freshman forward Tommy Bennett was offered a spot on the team. Current sophomores forward Dane Irving and goalie Dylan Hojnacki walked on as freshmen in 2012.
The coaching staff has yet to pick a starting goalie. Senior Steven Sisler, Hojnacki and freshman Garrett Patrick have been competing for the title since the beginning of open camp.
Much like Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez’s decision about who would start at quarterback this season, Hogan said he plans on waiting until opening day to announce who’s won the job in net.
“We all have a really good relationship — competitive on the ice but friendly off the ice,” Sisler said. “I enjoy competition rather than no competition.”
The Wildcats faced the third-toughest schedule in the ACHA last season, and this season’s is just as difficult, if not more so. Out of the 40 total games the team will play this season, 25 are against opponents ranked in the top 20.
Hogan said that he will continue making difficult schedules because in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Tonight the Wildcats head up to Flagstaff, Ariz., for the second straight year to face NAU in a two-game road series. The IceJacks (1-0-0) are an ACHA Division II squad.
Last season Arizona went 4-0 against NAU, outscoring it 23-9.
IceJacks sophomore forward Kyle Mair scored a team-high three points last week after scoring one goal and assisting two. NAU won its first game of the season 8-4 over the Arizona Red Hawks of the Western States Hockey League.
“We’re hoping for a strong defensive performance,” Hogan said. “We want to make sure that our seniors and our high offensive scoring guys are getting opportunities. We’re going to work through this weekend, making sure we’re playing very good hockey in week one.”
— Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo