Illinois ends Arizona hockey's season
On the ice, the Wildcats showed early postseason rust, but didn’t hang their heads after falling behind by four unanswered goals.
However, the resiliency it showed would not be enough, and Arizona hockey was eliminated in the first round of the 2014 ACHA Division I National Championships by Illinois. The No. 18 Fighting Illini (21-17-2) upset the No. 15 Wildcats (17-24-0, 8-8-0 WCHL) 4-3 in Newark, Del., at Fred Rust Ice Arena.
“I think we came a long way this year,” Arizona head coach Sean Hogan said. “Ending the season with a loss makes you a little upset, but I think if you look at the big picture, we’re definitely proud of our season and happy with our direction going forward.”
Forward John Scully and defenseman Cody von Rueden opened up the game with two goals each to put Illinois out in front with a 4-0, and all looked lost early for the UA. Illinois’ power play unit was successful on its initial three opportunities.
Hogan said he pulled his senior goaltender Steven Sisler for freshman Garrett Patrick after the end of the first period, because the team needed a spark. Coming off of the bench cold, Patrick played well, saving 30 of 32 shots faced.
Sophomore forward Brennen Parker finally got Arizona on the board in the second period after beating Illini senior goalie Nick Clarke.
In the final 20 minutes, UA captain Ansel Ivens-Anderson, who appeared in two NCAA Division I Elite Eights with New Hampshire, stepped up for his squad. The senior left winger scored and cut the deficit to a pair of goals early in the third period, swinging the momentum to Arizona’s side.
Great defense and goaltending by both sides kept the game at 4-2 until the concluding minute of the third period. Following a minor penalty with just under a 1:30 left by Parker, it looked as if the Wildcats would be down a man for the remainder of the game.
But almost immediately after, an Illini was sent to the box as well, and play evened up at four skaters each.
Then, with under a minute left in the contest, Ivens-Anderson found the net again and drew Arizona within one. The captain’s effort would not be enough, and the UA was bounced in the opening round of its first national tournament appearance since 2006.
“We fought back real well; I’m very proud of all the guys,” Ivens Anderson said. “We didn’t want to send the seniors out like this; we wanted to get a win and keep going in the tournament, so we all banded together to try and make it happen.”
This game would be the last for seniors Ivens-Anderson, Murmes, Sisler, Michael Basist, Jeffrey Wadhams and Eric Watters. With the season now officially over, the UA sends off all of its original “Icecats,” excluding Ivens-Anderson.
Illinois will play No. 2 Oklahoma (26-5-2), a team Arizona was 3-0-0 against during the regular season.
—Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo