Toughest challenge of season awaits UA hockey versus No. 1 Minot State
Arizona hockey will face its biggest challenge of the season when they square off against Minot State on Friday and Saturday nights.
Minot State travels into Tucson as ACHA’s top-ranked team, boasting an impressive 10-0 record. The Beavers have been on a tear, scoring 20 goals in their last four games and beating No. 3 Colorado last weekend.
“To me, they’ve always been the team to beat,” Arizona head coach Chad Berman said. “They’re clearly the best team in the country.”
Berman said the Beavers have all the ingredients of being a dominant team in the ACHA.
“They’re big, they’re fast and they’re physical,” Berman said. “You can always count on that from Minot State.”
Berman said his team has confidence going into this series after beating Colorado State last weekend.
“It’s a completely different challenge for us this weekend,” Berman said. “But now that we have benefitted from some confidence and feeling like we’re doing things right, we’re ready for that challenge.”
Berman stressed Arizona will have to be excellent on the penalty kill and in the defensive zone to thwart the potent Minot State forwards.
The team will also look to goaltender Austin Wilson to provide another solid outing in net. The sophomore goaltender stopped 68 of 71 shots, as he stonewalled Colorado State and guided the Wildcats to two well-needed wins.
“I see a kid who comes in who’s confident, who’s big in the net, who’s swallowing up pucks and not giving up a lot of rebounds,” Berman said. “Your goaltender’s job is to give you a chance to win and that’s what he did.”
Berman is also hopeful that this weekend’s series will mark the returns of forward captain Dylan Carter and defenseman Ryan Cigile.
Carter appeared in five games before suffering a collarbone injury but is sure to provide some offensive spark to an Arizona team that has struggled to score goals.
“[Carter] helps our depth and depth is very important when you play the top teams in the country,” Berman said.
The Wildcats top line of Orion Olsen, John Hogan and Brian “Toppie” Hogan will also play a critical role against Minot State.
“Certainly as a line, they’ve proven their worth,” Berman said. “To me, Toppie Hogan is cementing himself as an elite player in this league, a kid that people are going to have to be aware of.”
Toppie Hogan shined for the Wildcats last weekend, as he scored two goals, including one in a shootout that helped clinch Arizona’s win Friday night.
When he wasn’t scoring, Toppie Hogan was winning one-on-one battles all over the ice and helping clog the neutral zone to foil any offensive opportunities for Colorado State.
Toppie Hogan and his line-mates will be tasked with matching up against Minot State’s top offensive unit that has been giving opponents fits all season.
The puck will drop Friday and Saturday night at the Tucson Convention Center with both games scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
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