Teddy Toss a success after Wildcats win 7-3
Arizona hockey defeated the Utah Utes Friday night, 7-3 in the first game of a two game weekend series.
This weekend is a special one for the team because of the teddy bear toss and pink the rink promotions. The teddy bear toss took place on Friday night where fans brought teddy bears to the game to throw on the ice after the first Wildcat goal. The event is set up to give those teddy bears to children in need in Tucson. The pink the rink event is to raise awareness and money for cancer. Arizona head coach Chad Berman talked about what the pink the rink event means to him.
“That’s clearly my favorite game of the year," Berman said. "I just think it’s special, there’s such a responsibility to wear somebody’s name on your back that’s not yours that represents someone battling cancer or did battle cancer, it’s always an emotional night it’s just a completely different feel in the building."
The team raised $15,000 this year with all the proceeds going to the UA Cancer Center. Berman said,“it’s bigger than a hockey game tomorrow.”
The ‘Cats came out stronger than they did last Friday, Jan. 5th when the Wildcats lost 3-2 against Grand Canyon University - a loss the coaching staff was not happy with at the time.
“Between the Friday nights it was a world of difference, so that’s good we’re trending in the right direction,"Arizona assistant coach Eddie Lavilla said. "We still have a lot to work on in terms of blocking shots, getting through passing lanes and things like that but it was a good win tonight."
Freshman forward Anthony Cusanelli got things going for the Wildcats in the first period, and therefor unleashed a slew of multi-colored bears, dogs, and even a caterpillar. His goal was like many others he's scored this season - it came from the top of the faceoff circle.
“I think the top of the of the circle is where I have my most space," Cusanelli said. "Guys kinda let me work up top so I try and shoot as much as I can and if they’re giving me the space I’m gonna try and put it on the net."
After the brief pause to clean up the ice the Wildcats got back to work.
Arizona forward Robert Smythe continued the goal scoring and put the ‘Cats up 2-0 by the end of the first period. The first period was a stressful one for Utah goalie Patrick Kasper since he was forced to face 16 Wildcat shots and the skaters in front of him only put five shots on Austin Wilson.
The second period brought the most amount of goals with Wildcat goals by Cusanelli, Tyler Griffith, and Keelan Ulnick, and two tallies from Utah, giving Arizona a 5-2 lead heading into the third.
The third period brought more goal scoring from the ‘Cats and the level of physicality increased as well. A Utah player was hit along the boards, and toppled over into the photographer well between both benches. Several late checks and big hits came from both sides as Arizona continued to pull away.
UA forward Jake Dickison put the ‘Cats up six to two with another goal. Josh Larson buried what would be the last goal for Arizona making it 7-2. The Utes managed to score one more time in the final thirty seconds, but the score was too little too late as the Wildcats won 7-3.
This was the second weekend back for UA forward Robert Smythe, and the second weekend for the new UA defenseman, Keelan Ulnick. Both have now scored their first goals of the season.
“Robert is a kid who has been here before and we are glad to have him back. He brings such a dynamic, he’s a big body, he’s got nice hands and he really just changes the dynamic of our depth," Berman said.
When talking about Ulnick, Berman talked about the value a 6-3 defenseman that can move the puck brings to a team, mentioning that both Smythe and Ulnick are underclassmen so they can provide talent to the team for years to come.
Arizona faces off against the Utes one more time Saturday night at 7:30. The Wildcats are quickly coming towards the end of their home schedule with only four more home games after Saturday’s matchup.
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