Arizona hockey season review
Wildcat hockey got two King Kong-sized gorillas off its back in the 2013-14 season.
For eight years, the program only got to watch the postseason from home and lost 37 straight games its rival from up north. But this season Arizona (17-24-0, 8-8-0 WCHL) returned to the national tournament and finally defeated ASU.
Previously an independent program, Arizona joined the Western Collegiate Hockey League this year. This season ASU, Oklahoma, Central Oklahoma, Colorado and Colorado State became part of the WCHL as well.
Wildcats head coach Sean Hogan also welcomed his second recruiting class. Featuring nine freshmen, it was his largest at the UA. Tommy Bennett was the lone walk-on of the season.
Once again Hogan created one of the toughest schedules in the league. Of the 40 games the Wildcats played, 25 were against teams invited to last season’s national tournament.
In the Preseason National Coaches’ poll, Arizona began its 2013-14 campaign as the No. 19 team in the league. Right before the opening games against NAU, Hogan named his senior left wing Ansel Ivens-Anderson the new captain to succeed Brian Slugocki.
Shortly after, the rankings would be determined by computer calculations, and at the end of October the Wildcats had made it to No. 10. The last time the UA had been ranked that high was in the 2006-07 season, where it would eventually finish out of the top 25.
Hogan represented USA Hockey as an assistant coach at the Winter World University Games in Trentino, Italy. While he was gone, Hogan’s lead assistant coach, Dave Dougall, took the reins of the team.
Just a couple days after New Years Day, Arizona hosted York University of the elite Canadian Interuniversity Sport League. The CIS is the Canada’s equivalent of the NCAA Division I, and York featured several players with prior professional experience and a former NHL draft pick.
Arizona finished the regular season at No. 15, but was the only team in the ACHA with victories against two top-ranked squads. The defending national champion, Minot State, fell 3-2 to the Wildcats on Nov. 8. Under three months later, the Wildcats ruined the Sun Devils’ senior night with a 2-1 win in Tempe, Ariz.
In the first round of the ACHA Division I National Championships in Newark, Del., Arizona was upset 4-3 by No. 18 Illinois. The game was a thriller at the end, as the Wildcats cut the deficit to a goal with under a minute left after spotting the Fighting Illini 4-0.
Alas, the comeback effort was not enough, and that would conclude the UA’s season.
A strong case could be made for Ivens-Anderson, but senior forward Andrew Murmes topped all of Arizona’s offensive statistics and was its MVP.
He led the Wildcats in points (62), goals (24), assists (38), power-play goals (nine) and game-winning goals (three). It was also the third consecutive year Murmes was looking down on the rest of his teammates in points.
Also after earning a trio of assists in the national tournament loss to Illinois, Murmes picked up his 200th career point with Arizona. He is now one of 13 to do so for the program.
Rookie of the Year
While forwards Robbie Wilkinson and Alex O’Dea both had excellent rookie seasons offensively, Arizona’s rookie of the year is goalie Garrett Patrick.
Patrick (6-10) shared the bulk of playing time between the pipes with senior Steven Sisler and impressed throughout the year with a save percentage of .894 and a GAA of 3.47. He also posted three shutouts and was in net for the win over then-No. 1 Minot State, saving 34 of 36 shots.
Outlook for next year
This team is now completely Hogan’s as Arizona bids adieu to its last batch of “Icecats” and adds another recruiting class.
The Wildcats are not guaranteed to make the national tournament, and Hogan would consider the season a failure if the program didn’t follow up with another postseason appearance.
—Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo