Arizona’s first hockey game won’t be until Sept. 21 against NAU, but in the meantime two Wildcats are getting some playing time overseas.
Brady Lefferts and John Watanabe have been playing for the North America United squad at the Rudi Hiti Summer Cup in Bled, Slovenia.
The North America United team was a collection of players from the ranks of professional leagues, the NCAA and the American Collegiate Hockey Association, where the UA’s club hockey team plays. North America finished sixth in the tournament.
The two Wildcats combined to score four goals and tallied an assist against the opposing European professional teams in a tournament held from Aug. 16 to Aug. 19.
“That’s great, that just shows the level of play our league has grown in the last however many years,” senior forward Brian Slugocki said about the exhibition. “They’re both good friends of mine. Best of luck to them for the rest of the tournament — and that’s awesome in the first game that they scored two of the three goals.”
In the first game of the tournament, North America lost 4-3 to a team called HK Acroni Jesenice from the top Austrian hockey league, though Watanabe scored his second goal after getting one in the initial exhibition match in Germany. Lefferts scored a goal in the team’s next game, a 5-2 win against the Slovenian team HD Maribor.
Then on Aug. 18, North America lost 6-0 to HDD Tilia Olimpija Ljubljana. Sean Hogan, Arizona’s head coach, actually coached Ljubljana’s goalie, Jerry Kuhn, when they were at Western Michigan.
In the end, North America finished with a 1-3 record, but Wildcats transfer forward Ansel Ivens-Anderson has no doubt that his new teammates had a great experience overseas.
“I think experience-wise, it’s a great opportunity,” Anderson said. “I did something similar to it when I was much younger. Just the opportunity to play in Europe, it really kind of opens your eyes to how the game is played elsewhere.
“I think all in all it should really help develop their game, round it out … the speed will be different, especially if they continue playing hockey. It will be a great first step to continue doing it.”
UA holding open tryouts
Arizona will hold open tryouts next month.
Tryouts will start Sept. 5 or Sept. 10, depending on when the new seats at Tucson Convention Center are finished, Hogan said.
“Every year we have our walk-on open tryouts and every single year, at least since I’ve been here — two years — there’s always kids that you never even knew about that come out and you’re like, ‘Whoa,’ and you can find spots on the roster for those kids,” Hogan said.
He added, however, that there isn’t really any position in particular they are looking for.
“Anything, really,” Hogan said. “You can never have enough good players overall.”
Slugocki named captain, again
Once again, Slugocki will wear the captain’s “C” on his sweater for Arizona hockey.
Hogan announced that Slugocki will be the UA’s captain for the second year in a row.
“It’s a big privilege, going into my senior year,” Slugocki said. “It’s definitely something I’m proud of. It’s something that means a lot to me, and I am looking forward to leading the team to nationals hopefully this season, and I’m going to be doing whatever we need to do to make sure we will get there.”
Last season the Phoenix native played in 33 games, scored 24 points, scored 14 goals, tallied 10 assists and had two game winning goals.