Wildcats hockey welcomes new batch of recruits

s827hockeyrecruitingclasstylerbakerrgb
Tyler Baker and Tyler Baker | The Daily Wildcat Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA IceCats lost 3-2 to #17 UCO on Jan. 17, 2013 at the TCC.

After missing the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament his first two years as the head coach of Wildcat Hockey, Sean Hogan has high expectations for the recruits in his newest class.

New Wildcat forwards Alex O’Dea and Grant Nicholson, along with defenseman Alex Vazquez, have all recently won junior hockey league championships. Forward Zach Morgan served as the captain of the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division I State Champions as well.

“I think that winning breeds winning,” Hogan said, “so we’re really excited about that.”

Stefan Kosior, Max Miller and Rob Wilkinson will join O’Dea and Nicholson’s group of Arizona’s freshman forwards. On the blue line, Vazquez, Wil Pointon and Mattheu Raiola make up the newest core of defensemen.

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT

One of Hogan’s first commits, goalie Garrett Patrick, finds himself in a three-way competition for the starting job between the pipes. Opposing him are senior Steven Sisler and sophomore Dylan Hojnacki, a walk-on last year.

Sisler and Hojnacki may have seniority, but the job is still winnable for Patrick. Hogan said his starting lineups have always been based on who is playing at the highest level.

“I’ve been training all summer for this, so as for the physical aspect, I feel very prepared,” Patrick said. “I’m confident in my play, so I think if I play how I know I can, then I’ll be fine and have a good shot at the starting job.”

Unlike last year, this year’s recruiting class does not include any transfers, so the ACHA rules are new to them.

Hogan explained that the actual won’t change for his new players, but there will be some different rules they’ll need to adjust to.

Fighting in the junior leagues earns only a five-minute penalty, but the ACHA hands out ejections and game suspensions for the same offense. Players are also required to wear full-shield instead of half-shield helmets in ACHA play.

“I couldn’t say much about the speed because I haven’t seen a ton of ACHA games,” Nicholson said, “but from what I’ve heard it’s more older and mature guys who are stronger … so the top end is really good, but I imagine the ACHA will be more physically demanding.”

Hogan stressed that he wanted the team to become more physical and that he and the coaching staff looked for a level of toughness in the players while recruiting. In particular, Vazquez, Pointon and Wilkinson are expected to make an immediate impact as the enforcers of Wildcat hockey.

“I like to throw the body and make sure I get the energy going,” Vazquez said. “I control my temper on the ice by just hitting as much as I possibly can.” Additions could still be made to the team via the annual walk-on tryouts that start next week. Both of last season’s walk-ons, Hojnacki and sophomore forward Dane Irving, had positive first-year campaigns.

Hojnacki saved a total of 71 out of 79 shots and was victorious in all three starts he made, including an upset shootout win over Oklahoma at the Tucson Convention Center Arena. Irving saw significant playing time, appearing in 28 games last season for Arizona.

“There might be a kid going to school here I don’t know about that’s a pretty good hockey player,” Hogan said. “Last year we didn’t think we’d take anyone, and we ended up taking two. There’s definitely spots available.”

The UA will have an informational meeting about tryouts Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tubac Room in the Student Union Memorial Center.

The Wildcats begin their preseason off-ice workouts today. It will be the first time the recruits and returning players will all be together in a hockey setting.

The season officially commences on Sept. 27 in Flagstaff against NAU.

— Follow him at Twitter.com/JoeyPutrelo


Share this article