Wildcat hockey adds one through walk-on tryouts
On Sunday night, Wildcat hockey added a new forward, Tommy Bennett, to its roster as the lone walk-on player of the 2013 season.
Immediately after the concluding game of open camp, head coach Sean Hogan gave Bennett, a freshman, a personal roster invitation.
“It’s been a long weekend of hockey and I worked hard for getting a spot on the team so this is pretty exciting for me,” Bennett said.
The Illinois native previously played in the Western States Hockey League as a defenseman for the Southern Oregon Spartans, where he scored six goals to go along with seven assists in 42 games last season. During his tenure as a Spartan, Bennett played under the father of a 2012 walk-on, current Arizona forward Dane Irving.
“I love Dane and we’ve been pretty good buddies ever since we met,” Bennett said. “So I’m glad I made the team with him and I hope I get to play with him on a line.”
While Bennett tried out as a defenseman, the coaching staff decided he would be of better use to the Wildcats as a physical-type forward. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, the fore-checking space Bennett can take up in the zone of opposing teams was a major reason for acquiring his roster spot, according to Hogan.
Bennett’s display of his well-rounded skill set on both ends of the ice made him the most attractive of the non-returning or recruited players picked for the Arizona hockey program.
“[Bennett] has a good shot, he’s smart with the puck and has pretty good feet for a kid as big as he is,” Hogan said. “He showed a lot to us, and off the ice he’s ultra polite.”
The mandatory meeting for tryouts on Sept. 3 was not the first time Bennett and Hogan had met. Hogan noted he and his newest walk-on had been in contact since last year, and Bennett even came to watch one of the Wildcats’ 2012 practices in Chandler, Ariz.
Hogan said that the toughest adjustment for Bennett would be the bigger and stronger athletes throughout the Division I American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Bennett trained for open camp by lifting, doing cross-fit workouts and biking because Tucson lacks a regular ice rink.
“It’s tough coming out from Chicago to Arizona to play hockey because down here, there’s no ice until tryouts happen,” Bennett said.
Bennett is the final addition to Wildcat hockey’s 28-man roster, and the seventh UA student to walk-on since Hogan took the reigns as head coach. Last season Irving and goalie Dylan Hojnacki walked-on to the program as freshmen.
Arizona will have its first official on-ice team practice tonight. The Wildcats open up the season against NAU in Flagstaff on Sept. 27.
— Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo