Arizona hockey hosts No. 7 Ohio Bobcats in crucial homestand
A critical three-game home set awaits the Arizona hockey team this weekend before it hits the road for three weeks.
On Thursday night, the Ohio Bobcats travel to the Tucson Convention Center with an impressive No. 7 ranking and a familiar face. Former Arizona coach, Sean Hogan, now the bench boss for the Bobcats will play against his former squad for the first time.
The game also marks the return of former Wildcat Alex Vazquez to the TCC, now as a Bobcat defenseman.
“Sean is a great guy and I am sure he and Alex Vazquez will be very motivated to get the win, and so will we,” said UA coach Chad Berman. “To me, it’s not about Sean Hogan; it’s about the opportunity to knock off a No. 7 team.”
The Wildcats face a daunting task in upsetting the Bobcats, who boast a 23-4-1 record and have scored 10 goals in their past two games compared to the UA’s four.
For UA forward Sean Gruenhagen, he says getting more shots on net and increasing the net presence will help curb the team’s offensive woes.
“Our opportunities have definitely been there,” Gruenhagen said. “We have to start capitalizing on the chances we get.”
Gruenhagen also cites the new additions of forwards Brian Schehr and Tyler Griffith to the Wildcats roster as a potential spark to Arizona’s scoring.
Schehr, a transfer from the University of Rhode Island, suited up in both games for UA against Colorado two weeks ago and played solid defensively, generating chances for his line.
Griffith is the team’s newest transfer from Division III Plymouth State University.
“He will be another player who really helps our depth and brings an element of hockey sense,” Berman said on the addition of Griffith.
Berman also said that at this point in the season, one of the team’s two solid goaltenders has to separate himself from the other heading down the stretch to the national tournament.
“As of now, I would say Austin [Wilson] has the lead,” Berman said. “However, we have a lot of season left to determine who ‘the guy’ is.”
Both goaltenders, Austin Wilson and Garrett Patrick, will have a chance to make a case for themselves this weekend as Arizona also takes on Midland University on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Warriors (13-8-4) have struggled as of late, losing their last five games.
“We cannot take this team lightly and have to be prepared for it to be another tough game,” UA’s Gruenhagen said on facing Midland.
As Berman alluded to, this hockey weekend is the perfect opportunity for the Wildcats to elevate their national tournament resume.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association Men’s Division I National Championship consists of the 17 top-ranked teams in the conference. Currently, Arizona sits in the No. 18 ranking with a 6-10-3 record.
An upset over Ohio and solid performances against Midland could push UA to the top 15 before they head to Tempe next weekend to battle ASU’s Division II team.
Arizona plays Ohio Thursday night and Midland on Friday and Saturday nights, with all games scheduled for 7:30 p.m. puck drops at the TCC.