National tournament within reach for Arizona hockey
Arizona hockey goalie Garrett Patrick defends during Arizona's 5-2 loss against Stony Brook University on Jan. 23. at the Tucson Convention Center Arena. Patrick and the Wildcats take on Colorado on Thursday.
No. 22 Arizona hockey will travel to Colorado to play against two WCHL league-mates in three games in hopes of making the ACHA national tournament.
“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” Arizona head coach Chad Berman said. “I only know one way to get back on track, and that’s to get back to work and fix our mistakes. We are a very capable hockey team, but we must make the details of the game priority. We are a very young team, so a lot of these lessons we are learning will help to launch us into the program we think we will be by next season.”
Thursday night, the Wildcats play against No. 18 Colorado, and the weekend will continue with a two-game series against No. 21 Colorado State.
In late October, Arizona split a two-game series against the Colorado Buffaloes at home. During the first game, Arizona lost in overtime 2-3, but the Wildcats came back the next night to beat the Buffaloes 3-1.
Colorado has transformed into an aggressive offense since the two teams last met. Colorado head coach Jeff Neitenbach made three additions to his roster over winter break by adding forwards John Nitchen and Matt Anders, and goalkeeper Colin Champine. In just six games each, Nitchen has accumulated six points and Anders has earned eight points.
Jake Bauer leads the Buffaloes in scoring with 27 points from 15 goals and 12 assists.
During the early season win against Colorado, Arizona freshman goalie Austin Wilson made his debut and saved 29 of 30 shots in his first start for the Wildcats. Wilson has started in net during four other games and holds a .91 goal save-percentage. Garrett Patrick remains Arizona’s starting goalie with a .88 goal save-percentage.
“The Colorado teams are hard working teams on the rise,” Berman said. “Last time we played these guys, we were very frustrated after losing in overtime. It will be a good test for us on the road, and we look forward to the matchups.”
During this past week, the Colorado State Rams have moved up two spots in the rankings. Both Colorado and Colorado State, however, are coming off of a complete sweep from No. 2 Central Oklahoma last weekend.
Rams’ forward William Neff leads the team in scoring with 27 points from 13 goals and 14 assists.
Last time the Wildcats faced the Rams, Arizona had trouble capitalizing on the one-man advantage and struggled to score on Colorado State’s goalie Alex Steidler. Steidler currently holds a .87 goal save-percentage.
Arizona has fallen three spots out of the national tournament and is currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
Sophomore forward Robbie Wilkinson leads Arizona in scoring with 21 points from 11 goals and 10 assists. Following close behind is freshman Dylan Carter with 19 points and Arizona captain Shane Gleason with 17 points.
The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday against the Colorado Buffaloes. The puck drops against Colorado State at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday to wrap up the weekend.
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