There is no place like home and the Arizona men's hockey team proved it in a beat down of rival ASU on Friday, Dec. 1 at the Tucson Convention Center. It wasn’t a pretty one to say the least with multiple penalties called on both sides, chippy play and a brawl on the ice in front of the Arizona State goal.
Arizona men’s hockey returned to the their home ice for the first time since November 4th. While on the road the ‘Cats faced three opponents: Utah, Arkansas and Missouri State.
“It’s good to be home, we love playing at home. We got a great locker room, we got a great crowd and a great fan base. This isn’t about us it’s bigger. It’s about alumni, its about this city” said Arizona head coach Chad Berman.
The game got off to a quick start for the Wildcats with three goals in the first period. Josh Larson got the scoring streak started with a goal only six seconds into the game. Arizona’s Anthony Cusanelli kept the scoring streak alive with a breakaway goal, putting the home team up two to zero. The ‘Cats didn’t stop there, Justin Dungey buried the team’s third goal making it a lopsided first period in Arizona’s favor.
“I thought we played with good energy and had good puck support. We got a little complacent and we stopped moving our feet. That’s what happened for two periods,” said coach Berman.
After the three-goal period Arizona cooled off a bit in the second and third periods. While the ‘Cats cooled off in the score column they heated up their physical play.
The Sun Devils put their first puck in the net just a few minutes into the 2nd period, making the score 3-1 Arizona. As both teams failed to get foothold on the game following the early goals, things started to get chippy on the ice. Several cross-checking, roughing and charging penalties were called on players from both teams. At one point, Arizona’s Anthony Cusanelli served a two-minute penalty and skated back on the ice just to earn himself another penalty by cross checking an ASU player on his back. With no more scoring by the end of the second period the score was still 3-1.
Things soon changed. With a little under eight minutes left in the third period Arizona forward Anthony Cusanelli stole the puck away from Arizona State at their own blue line. He skated up the ice towards the sun devil’s goal and passed the puck to his teammate Chris Westlund for the backhand goal. The score was 4-1, Arizona.
Late in the third period an Arizona player sent a slap shot in towards the Arizona State goal tender. As the puck landed on the ice an Arizona and Arizona State player got tangled up in a fight. As the two fought the Arizona State goalie stood up in the crease and charged the Arizona player. Both teams broke out in full on fights causing multiple players from both teams to get ejected from the game.
“It’s frustrating and I’ve been there. I’m happy that the refs made the right decision, they took control” Berman said.
Arizona players were only given misconducts which means they can play in tomorrow’s game. Coach Berman said it would have crushed his heart if one of his senior captains, Orion Olsen, would have been disqualified for the next game as well.
Tempers soon calmed down as the referees settled the fights. The final minutes of the game resumed without scores from either team. The final score being Arizona four, Arizona State one.
Senior goalie Austin Wilson got the start for the Wildcats, allowing only one goal.
“When you walk into this building on an ASU night it feels different. It’s something I’ve been apart of for four years. To the senior class if we beat these guys a couple more times, I don’t think anything could really beat that” Wilson said.
Arizona had the comfort of playing on their home ice tonight but that didn’t give them a chance to relax. In their last two games before Christmas break the Wildcats began a two game series against the Sun Devils. They passed their first test but another game awaits as the Wildcats will face off against the Sun Devils on Saturday again.
It was a packed night at the Tucson Convention Center, students, families and former Arizona players filled the stands to witness the No.15 Wildcats play the No.24 Sun Devils in a chance to win the Cactus Cup. The Cactus Cup goes to the winner of the UA vs. ASU season series. If the Wildcats win tomorrow night they will win the Cup.
“Tomorrow’s an incredibly special night. You feel the passion from this fan base and you so badly want to give this back to them. It’s been too long and it’s time that we celebrate the Cup and to do it at home, we can’t pass that up” Berman said.
Former player and current assistant coach for the Wildcats John Hogan talked about what the ASU rivalry means. Hogan played at Arizona for three years and is in his first year as a coach.
“It’s different, I had some jitters before this game for some reason. There was something in the air tonight that it was going to be a big game and I think it’ll be the same tomorrow” said assistant coach John Hogan.
The Wildcats head into tomorrow’s game against ASU with momentum after a big win tonight. The annual alumni game will be played before and the rematch against ASU will start at 7:30 p.m.
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