Arizona hockey hosts NAU and Minot State over weekend

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Owen Forest | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona right wing Alex Nespor (12) skates toward the goal during Arizona's 4-2 win against Michigan State on Nov. 7. Nespor and the Wildcats host NAU and Minot State this weekend in the final two games of a nine-game home stand.

No. 17 Arizona looks to continue its three-game win streak this weekend when NAU and Minot State University come to the Tucson Convention Center.

Friday night, Arizona (6-0-9) hosts the ACHA Division II Ice Jacks of NAU when the Wildcats host their third annual “Teddy Bear Toss.”During this game, fans are invited to toss unwrapped teddy bears or stuffed animals onto the ice after the Wildcats’ score their first goal. The bears will then be collected and donated to Toys for Tots Foundation for use as holiday gifts.

Earlier this year when Arizona opened their 2014-2015 season against NAU, the Wildcats defeated the Ice Jacks 8-2. Arizona right wing Alex Nespor scored four goals against NAU.

“Hopefully, I can have another good game against NAU,” Nespor said. “I just want to help the team win in any way I can. And if that means another four-goal effort, I’ll try my best.”

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However, since their loss to Arizona, the Ice Jacks have won 11 straight games.

“NAU has been on a roll since we last saw them,” UA hockey head coach Chad Berman said. “We are their only loss, and I am sure that doesn’t sit well with them. They have put up a lot of goals in that stretch, so we will have to continue our pursuit of defensive excellence.”

Forward Gregory Park is NAU’s biggest threat with 25 points this season from 14 goals and 11 assists. Closely following Park are forward Tyler Giovannetti with 24 points and forward Ryan Thompson with 23 points.

On Saturday night, Arizona will host No. 12 Minot State University (10-0-5).

MSU has suffered losses from Oklahoma, Central Oklahoma and ASU.

Currently, Minot State is on a four-game winning streak. Before coming down to Tucson, the Beavers will play a two-game series against state rival No. 2 ASU.

“Minot State is a big strong physical hockey team that makes it tough to get to their net,” Berman said. “They are a very strong program, having won a National Championship a few years ago and we will have to be at our best to get a win.”

Ranked No. 19 overall in the ACHA for scoring leaders is forward Jeremy Johnson, who leads the Beavers of Minot State in scoring with 25 points from 17 goals and eight assists. Starting goalie Riley Hengen has a save percentage of .91 and is ranked No. 34 overall in goalie leaders for the ACHA. The other goalie for MSU is Connor Beauchamp, who averages a save percentage of .90.

Arizona’s two goalies, Garrett Patrick and Austin Wilson, have been splitting time in the net throughout the past two weekends. Patrick has a save percentage of .89 and Wilson has a .95 save percentage. Despite winning his first two collegiate starts, Wilson should be prepared to sit on the bench this weekend.

“Patrick will be in net Friday and probably Saturday,” Berman said. “There is no goaltending controversy; Patrick is our No. 1 goaltender.”

Arizona is led in scoring by Wil Pointon with 11 points from only assists. Nespor and captain Shane Gleason are tied in second for the Wildcats with 10 points each.

Alex O’Dea and Robbie Wilkinson both tally up nine points each. O’Dea will be out for the second week in a row due to a head injury.

“Preparation has been a big topic of discussion the past couple of weeks for us,” UA forward Matt Reed said. “We have lacked first period jump our last few weekends at home. This weekend, we plan to put together two full 60-minute games. Strong defensive play at a high pace is going to get us two wins this weekend.”

These two games mark the end of Arizona’s nine-game homestead. The puck will drop at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night.

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Follow Zoe Wolkowitz on Twitter.


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