UA hockey sees ups and downs over month long road trip, preps for Oklahoma
Arizona hockey head coach Chad Berman skates during a practice open to fans on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. This will be Berman's second year as head coach for the Wildcats.
The saying “there’s no place like home” is certainly appropriate for the Arizona hockey team as it returns to the Tucson Convention Center this weekend for a two game set against Oklahoma.
The Arizona Wildcats (3-4) haven’t played a home game in more than a month when they last defeated NAU on Sept. 26.
UA experienced a balance of highs and lows in its five-game road trip.
“I think we saw the best of us and the worst of us,” said Arizona head coach Chad Berman.
ASU christened its new Division I program with an 8-1 clubbing of the Wildcats on Oct. 3, at Gila River Arena. Arizona’s usual punching bag NAU upset them 1-0 the following week.
The Wildcats did manage to squeak out a win on their three-game road trip to play Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma.
That one win came in the form of a huge upset over No. 6 Oklahoma (5-2-2), Arizona’s opponent this weekend.
Three players have been removed from the team’s official roster for unspecified reasons since Arizona’s last home game.
“There’s a standard to uphold in being a part of this program and hopefully that’s a loud message to the room,” Berman said.
For now, the Wildcats are focusing on the task at hand.
UA’s contest against the Sooners in Oklahoma City on Oct. 15 was a tight affair. The Wildcats took the Sooners to a shootout when Matthew Armenti deposited the lone shootout goal and sealed the 1-0 win for Arizona.
The unranked Wildcats will need solid performances from their back end to thwart Oklahoma’s high scoring offense, which has scored seven goals on two separate occasions this season.
Arizona goaltender Garrett Patrick will most likely get the nod for both games, as he was perfect against the Sooners the last time the two teams played, stopping all 28 shots he faced.
The Wildcats’ forwards will also have to play a critical role in taking two games from the Sooners, who will be hungry for revenge.
Three of the Wildcats’ top five scorers are defensemen. The Wildcats’ top two forward lines will have to play their normal defensive back checking type game, but will need to apply offensive pressure to ease the burden for their defensemen.
“We’ve got some upperclassmen who are very skilled who we depend on to put up some production and they’re not getting it done,” Berman said. “It’s time for them to step up and own that.”
Defenseman Armenti and forward Orion Olsen are players to keep an eye out for this weekend.
Rhode Island transfer Armenti has been rock solid for Arizona this season, playing on the Wildcats’ first defensive pair and first power-play unit. He has three assists this season and will be logging extra minutes this weekend to help guide Arizona’s defense to victories.
Olsen has played exceptionally well, centering Arizona’s top line alongside the Hogan brothers, providing one goal and two assists in seven games. The Minnetrista, Minnesota, native will have to provide a spark to get Arizona’s plagued offense rolling in the right direction.
Arizona drops the puck against Oklahoma at TCC on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The game Friday night marks a 16-game home stand the Wildcats will host until Jan. 23.
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