Clinging to the last playoff spot, Wildcat hockey earned a vital split this weekend at No. 10 Liberty.
No. 18 Arizona (15-16-0) beat the Flames 4-2, including an empty net goal Friday night, but lost 5-2 Saturday night.
“We played really well all weekend long,” UA head coach Sean Hogan said. “For whatever reason we play really well on the road.”
, and the first time since 2005-06 that Arizona has tallied that many top 10 wins.
“I wish we would have gone 2-0, we definitely had the opportunities to win both games, but I’m happy with the split,” senior forward Brian Slugocki said. “They’re a top 10 team and it’s important to get these wins down the stretch.”
On Jan. 25, the rankings were revealed and Arizona remained No. 18, its spot since Dec. 1 and currently the last spot in the national tournament.
On Saturday, the Flames opened the scoring in the first minute and though Slugocki soon answered with a goal, Liberty scored three goals in a five minute span midway through the second to take the game.
Hogan called the first goal “fluky, weird” and it went in after an unusual deflection, which junior goalie Steven Sisler didn’t see and blamed the Liberty three-goal stretch on penalties. Sisler started for the second night in a row and made 31 saves.
At the end of the game, the Wildcats and Liberty both added goals, and freshman forward Mike Adamowicz scoredfor the UA.
“We never gave up, we had a ton of opportunities,” Hogan said.
UA jumped ahead 2-0 on Friday thanks to goals by sophomore forward Mike Ferreira and Slugocki.
“We played really well Friday night, got on top of them early, which is good,” Hogan said.
Unlike the first meeting against the Flames though, Arizona held on. The UA blew a 3-0 lead in Tucson to lose 7-6 after blowing 2-0 leads in back to back nights against No. 3 Minot State.
With 6:19 left in the first, the Flames cut the Wildcat lead to 2-1. Then with one minute to go in the second, junior forward Ansel Ivens-Anderson scored.
At 17:30 mark in the third, Liberty cut the UA lead to 3-2. Junior forward Andrew Murmes added an empty net goal in the last minute to seal it. Sisler had a better night on Friday, making 35 saves.
Slugocki and Hogan said they don’t know why the Wildcats play so well on the road, but Slugocki said he thinks some of it is carry over from their win over then-No. 5 Oklahoma last week and some was the rowdy Liberty atmosphere.
“We just have a lot of energy, especially carrying over from the Oklahoma win everyone was really excited, especially to play in that environment,” Slugocki said. “Their fans were chirping on us all game long, so it was definitely a fun atmosphere to play in and we thrived in it and that’s what happened Friday night.”
Up next for the Wildcats is a two game series at Arizona State Friday and Saturday.