On Saturday, No. 17 Arizona hockey pulled off one of its biggest upsets in program history by sweeping No. 3 Oklahoma.
It was the first time Arizona (5-4-0, 2-1 Western Collegiate Hockey League) had swept an opponent ranked that highly since January 1996, against then-No. 3 Eastern Michigan.
“I think we’ve shown the nation we’re for real after this series,” head coach Sean Hogan said.
Thursday night’s seven-goal loss to No. 11 Central Oklahoma (8-6-0, 1-2) opened the road trip and its Western Collegiate Hockey League play with little promise for Arizona. Given the travel conditions, the players who made the trip were jet-lagged upon landing in Oklahoma City, according to Hogan.
The Wildcats ended up being embarrassed 8-1 by the Bronchos.
“Win or lose, the next day we usually watch video,” Hogan said. “But we played so poorly that we didn’t want to show video because it would just bring [the team] down further, so we just let the guys catch up on some sleep and stuck to positives.”
Arizona found itself down two goals against Oklahoma (5-1-3, 0-3) in the third period last Friday. Assistant captain and senior forward Andrew Murmes netted a goal to cut the deficit to one just five seconds into the period.
Another goal from Murmes in the final two minutes of the contest evened the score at three. Junior defenseman Matt Nowicki then potted the game-winner in overtime for his first goal of the season.
“We went nuts; I couldn’t have been happier,” Hogan said. “I couldn’t stop hugging coach [Dave] Dougall. We’ve had so much adversity, and these kids have worked so hard. To come back in the third from two goals, especially against a team like that, is unbelievable.”
It was the UA’s first victory over a program ranked that high since 2002, against then-No. 2 Delaware.
“We’re a top team that’s going to get it done at a national championship level,” Nowicki said. “I trust every single person out there on the ice. Each and every single one of these guys gives it their all every single day, and Friday was a perfect example of that.”
After sitting behind sophomore Dylon Hojnacki (1-3-0) on Thursday, senior Steven Sisler (3-1-0) got the nod between the pipes the next day, saving 31 of 34 shots on goal.
Playing through the pain on Saturday, Sisler somehow performed better, rejecting 35 of 36 shots the Sooners put on net en route to a 2-1 win.
“[Sisler] showed a ton of heart [Saturday],” Hogan said. “His legs cramped up in the third period, and I told him, ‘If you need to come out, we’re not judging; if you can’t stop the puck, let us know.’ He said he wanted to stay in and made around five or six more saves down the stretch to give us the win.”
The Oklahoma series closed the book on the Wildcats’ season-opening four-week road trip. Arizona returns to the Tucson Convention Center this weekend for the first time since late February.
Friday night, the UA will host ACHA Division II in-state foe NAU (5-3-0) for a rematch after sweeping the IceJacks at Jay Lively Activity Center in late September. The following night, the Wildcats will face their second top-10 squad in as many weeks in No. 7 Delaware (8-1-0).
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