Arizona hockey falls in shootout loss to No. 1 Minot State
The Arizona hockey team may not have slain the dragon and taken down No. 1 ranked Minot State, but the team certainly proved its worth.
Arizona pushed Minot State to the brink Friday night in what was arguably the Wildcats’ most exciting game of the season, as they lost in a shoot-out 3-2 in heartbreaking fashion.
UA’s bench boss couldn’t have asked for a better effort against the top team of the conference.
“When it goes down to a shoot-out, it can go either way, it’s a coin flip,” said Arizona head coach Chad Berman. “I’m proud of the way we’re competing; we’re starting to come together as a team.”
The Beavers struck first as they cashed in on a three-on-one opportunity on which UA goaltender Austin Wilson had no chance.
The Wildcats stormed back to tie the game with a power-play goal from defenseman Sean Ozment, that was set up nicely by John Hogan and Brian “Toppie” Hogan.
After the first period, the barrage of penalties began. In total, there were 11 penalties called between both teams.
Perhaps the most controversial penalty of the night was the unsportsmanlike conduct minor called on Wilson, when he barked toward the referee after he was tripped up by a Minot player.
On the ensuing power-play, the Beavers scored immediately with a wrist shot from the blue line that took the wind out of the sails for the Wildcats.
“My penalty was stupid and inexcusable on my part,” said Wilson. “A call didn’t go our way and I lost my head. That can’t happen.”
Wilson didn’t let his miscue get the best of him as he kept it a one goal game for the rest of the night before UA forward Matt Reed deposited his first goal of the season to even the score in the late moments of the third period.
Reed made a beautiful deflection to beat Minot’s goaltender Connor Beauchamp top shelf off of a wrist shot from Alex O’Dea.
The game remained deadlocked after an exciting overtime period and, for the second time in two weeks, the Wildcats entered a shoot-out against a top-25 team.
Toppie Hogan couldn’t find the back of the net in the first round, and neither could Minot’s Cole Olson.
Then it was O’Dea’s turn. O’Dea played hero last Friday night for the Wildcats as he scored the game winning shoot-out goal to beat Colorado State.
O’Dea darted in on Beauchamp and after a multitude of stick handles and dekes, had an open side and released his shot but it clanked off the post.
O’Dea and the fans at the Tucson Convention Center were in awe and disbelief.
Minot’s Dylan Gejdos barely squeaked the puck through Wilson’s five hole to put the Beavers ahead in the shoot-out. Matthew Armenti had the final chance for UA but his wrist shot hit bar as well. The Wildcats came within inches of upsetting top ranked Minot State.
“[Minot] didn’t seem like they were the No. 1 team in the nation tonight,” Reed said. “We came out and we matched them in the first two periods and then we kind of just stuck to the game plan and hung around until the end of the game and try to keep it close.”
Arizona played another close game with the Beavers on Saturday night but ultimately dropped the second contest of the weekend 2-1 with its lone goal coming from Daniel Francis.
UA wasn’t able to muster another late comeback as it did Friday night, but the Wildcats certainly have a lot to build on with two solid performances against the best team in the country.
“We’re starting to show life of a team that wants to be relevant in the [American Collegiate Hockey Association] and we’re getting rewarded,” Berman said.
Arizona plays again at the TCC on Friday and Saturday night against No. 18 Missouri State, with both games scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Seth Pines on Twitter.