After a slow start, Wildcats defeat the Milwaukee School of Engineering 4-3
Arizona hockey returned to the Tucson Convention Center, after a short road trip to Tempe Wednesday night, looking to get their fourth consecutive home win and to bounce back from a 3-3 tie. They succeed in that endeavor in a 4-3 win over the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
The Wildcats took a while to find their groove during Friday’s game. Arizona’s offense was unable to put the puck in the net during the entire first period. The ‘Cats defense also struggled as they let in two back-to-back goals in the middle of the first period.
“The start was not to be desired, so it was a bit of a gut check time for us at intermission there," UA head coach Chad Berman said. "It’s great to see that you can come out of something like that. It looked dire there, I think everybody was questioning what we were doing and we kind of said lets let the seniors take it from here and I thought they did a good job."
In the second period, the ‘Cats stormed back with three goals. Robert Smythe got the goal scoring frenzy started for Arizona just two minutes into the second period. The next was a shorthanded goal scored by Griffin Dyne.
Josh Larson, in a scrum around the net, knocked the puck past the goal line but the puck was kicked out by the Raiders' goalie before the referee could see it. Via video from the live stream, it was confirmed by media and fans the puck crossed the goal line, but the play was never reviewed by officials, so the score remained 2-2.
The Wildcats were able to take their first lead of the game following a goal from Ethan Stahlhuth. Stahlhuth’s goal erased a two-goal deficit and put the ‘Cats ahead in the score column just in time for the final period of play to start. Berman said there was a noticeable difference between two periods.
“It’s as simple as our team you know we do three, four, five keys to a game. One key that has to remain is puck support for our team, we’re a team that has to put pucks in areas skate underneath it and get to loose pucks. When we start trying to make the diagonals and being perfect, that’s not who we are. We are a team that relies on our feet so I thought we got back to that and hopefully that can carry into tomorrow,” Berman said.
The third period was set up to be a great one as both teams were within arms reach of a victory. Although the Raiders had lost the lead, they showed they were not going to give up just yet. With 13 minutes remaining in the final period of the play, the Raiders found the back of the net for the third time and tied the game at three. As the game clock continued to wind down, the intensity in the T.C.C. slowly began to build.
“I think it’s a good thing, I’m not biting my nails. These are the kind of situations that we are gonna run into for the national tournament and certainly next weekend in Oklahoma and UCO [University of Central Oklahoma]. UCO might be the hardest place to win and so to me that’s situational preparation," Berman said.
Just as it seemed the game would end in a tie, Justin Plumhoff buried what would be the game-winning goal for Arizona, putting the Wildcats up 4-3. As the puck crossed the goal line and into the net the Arizona fans, players and coaches erupted with excitement.
In a last minute effort to tie the game, the Raiders pulled their goalie to have a man advantage. The Raiders were unable to tie the game, meaning the Wildcats had just won their fourth straight home game. Freshman goalie Nolan Bivolcic got the start and the win for the Wildcats for the second time this season, he was also awarded with player of the game.
“After the first I was just kind of down with myself but you play hockey everyday and I love it, so I just wanted to be happy and keep playing,” Bivolcic said.
The Wildcats face off against the Milwaukee School of Engineering Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. on their home ice. Tomorrow’s game will also be the fourth annual Pucks for Paws night where fans can bring their dogs into the arena to watch the game.
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