Hockey wins big in first game of year
For the third straight year, Arizona Hockey opened its season in Flagstaff, Ariz., and the team played with no mercy as five different Wildcats scored.
The No. 18 Wildcats (1-0-0) defeated the ACHA Division II NAU IceJacks (0-1-0) on Saturday night 8-2. Chad Berman won his first game as the head coach of Arizona Hockey.
“This weekend was very productive for us,” Berman said. “We got off to the start we had hoped for, particularly since some of our grinding players were able to produce. We are not a team that is going to throw a top-notch scoring line at you, but we do have four strong lines that can wear an opponent down.”
Starting off his Arizona career with a bang, freshman forward Alex Nespor scored four goals for the Wildcats. Nespor scored the first goal of the 2014-15 season during a power play.
“I just got lucky [on Saturday],” Nespor said. “I’m not usually a goal scorer, but the puck just found the net. My line mates, Olson and O’dea, put me in good positions to score.”
The Wildcats’ penalty kill was lights-out on Saturday as the team was 4-for-4 on killing penalties. Arizona even capitalized while short-handed on a kill when senior forward Mike Adamowicz scored a goal. After taking last season off, Adamowicz’s goal marked his first in two years.
Senior forward Jason Effertz and sophomore forward Alex Vazquez both put one in the net for Arizona for their first goals of the season. Last season, Vazquez played more of a defensive role and only scored two goals.
“We had all four lines working, and every single player wanted to work just as hard as the other,” Vazquez said. “It’s just the beginning; from here on out we should just be building up from that. But this year, I can definitely tell guys want to be here and will do whatever it takes to win.”
Freshman forward Griffin Dyne won an offensive zone face off and put in the rebound of a shot. Dyne’s first goal at the ACHA Division I level put the Wildcat’s up 5-0 late in the second quarter.
“I think this was reflective in our balanced production,” Berman said. “We gave out a lot of game pucks tonight for first collegiate goals. When the team sees Alex Nespor get four goals because he was going to the net with and without the puck, that sets the tone for how we have to play.”
Arizona held off NAU until the third quarter when junior Ryan Thompson and senior Benoit Cousineau Cote scored two for the IceJacks.
UA sophomore goalie Garrett Patrick had 26 saves on 28 shots. Berman has not decided on a permanent goalie to start for the season.
“We did a really good job of getting the puck deep, out-working NAU down low and putting everything in the net,” UA forward Alex O’dea said. “We kept it simple and it paid off for us this time.”
This Friday, the Wildcats fly to Lynchburg, Va., to face the No. 7 Liberty Flames in a two-game series.
Follow Zoe Wolkowitz on Twitter @zowolko