Wildcat hockey traveling out east for November road trip
Until the two big games against rival ASU club hockey, Arizona's hockey team will be on the road battling opponents from across the country in the span of five games.
Nov. 10 & 11: Utah
The University of Utah is 4-10 on the season, but don't count it out just based on record. In the three previous seasons it has finished with overall records of 18-12, 26-3 and 27-11-4.
However, the team is experiencing a scoring drought with its number one point-getter, Alex King, tallying just ten points (6,4) on the season. Last season, through thirty games, King had a total of 27 points (16,11) which was good for fifth on the team.
Of the four scorers that finished above King, two of them are present on today's roster. Brett Meyer has nine points (5,4) and Nick Fornelius has seven points (1,6).
While all of the previously mentioned players are under six-feet in height, the roster is actually split pretty well down the middle with 12 skaters under six-foot and 15 over. That being said, Utah should not have a game plan unlike Arizona's: speed and grit.
It's a popular style of hockey nowadays and with a team with a nice mix of "bigger" and "smaller" players, it would not be surprising to see Utah get its heavier forwards in the corners with snipers in the sweet spots, waiting for a clean pass.
Arizona's player to watch during this game will be Justin Plumhoff. He came off a weekend where he saw six points (1,5) in his favor. He's a speedy player who is effective at winning draws in both the defensive and offensive zones, so his game will be key to Arizona's success against Utah.
Nov. 16: Arkansas
Arizona faced the Razorbacks earlier in the season, in Gilbert, Ariz., and won both contests by scores of 5-2 and 7-5. Arkansas has a record of 5-12-1 and has finished with 8-29-2 and 17-15-3 in the past two years since going Division I. Arkansas is currently at a goal differential of –36, meaning it's had 36 more goals scored against the team then for the team.
A couple players have contributed more to scoring than Utah with Luc Gradisar scoring a total of 19 points (14,5) this season.
Arizona has already played Arkansas, so it knows what to expect. That being said, it is not unlikely that the still red-hot Anthony Cusanelli will light the lamp in this game after scoring four between the last two contests between the two.
This could also be a big game for Manny Rowe who has been very quiet this season. However, in the last two games against Arkansas he had a total of five points (1,4) so this could be a game to get him going again.
Nov. 17 & 18: Missouri State
To wrap up the road trip, Arizona will be taking on Missouri State, a team it has also seen before.
The Wilcats faced the team on their first game of the season away from the Tucson Convention Center, and were shutout 2-0. Missouri State is 11-8-2 on the season with just five more goals for than goals against.
In the last game Missouri State played, only three players got points on its two goals. Zane Obryan scored the first and Travis Barrett and Jordan Bratton assisted. On the following goal, it was Barrett who scored with Obryan and Bratton assisting.
Obryan, Barrett, and Bratton make up three of the top five spots for scoring, but none occupy the first spot. Andrew Kovacich is first in points with 25 (15,10) in 21 games. Kovachich is a forward who is under six-foot and, much like Utah's players, will likely be the one looking for a set-up pass in the middle of the open ice. As usual, Arizona should focus on taking away these lanes for Missouri if it wants to win.
Arizona will also have to solve Missouri State's goaltending.
Bailey Stephens, who shut the Cats out last time, is Missouri's definitive starter since he has the most minutes in the crease. Of goalies who have played ten or more games, he is third in goals against average with a 2.45.
The Wildcat to watch for this game would be Orion Olsen. He's been quiet, in terms of pure goals, after scoring two goals in the second game of the season against ASU club hockey. Nevertheless, he still hustles and has mastered a dynamic two-way defenseman role. That being said, his speed and determination will really help the Wildcats against such a tough club, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him rifle one past the goaltender.
Follow Rachel Huston on Twitter