The Arizona Wildcats hockey team ended their home season with a defeat over rival ASU by a score of 4-1 on Sunday at the Tucson Convention Center. The ‘Cats are now 6-0 on the season against the Sun Devils, with two regular season games left.
The game on Sunday afternoon was highlighted as Senior Day for the one senior on the team, Charlie James, who started the game at the forward position along with four freshman. The game featured many highlights for the fans in their last glimpse of the team at home. Here’s how the rivalry game played out.
The Wildcats got off to a fast start, scoring just under two minutes into the first period. The goal was scored by forward Ethan Stahlhuth, with assists coming from forwards Bayley Marshall and Chris Westlund. The first period brought some rust for the ‘Cats though, as after Stahlhuth’s goal, there wasn’t anything else to add to the score sheet in the period. The Wildcats found themselves carrying a 1-0 lead the end of the first.
Coming out of the first intermission, Arizona was able to capitalize on two power-play opportunities. The first goal off the power play came from a familiar name, as Stahlhuth found himself adding another goal to his stat sheet. About 30 seconds later, forward Josh Larson fired the puck into the net, which gave the ‘Cats a 3-0 lead at the end of the second period. There was a lot of action that did not just involve goals, though, as the rivals showed the intensity between the two schools with nine penalties given out.
The third period found the Sun Devils getting involved in the scoring department, as defenseman Kenneth Miller was able to squeak the puck past Arizona goalie Nolan Bivolcic. But Bivolcic was able to quickly gather his composure and save 31 out of 32 shots on goal during the game.
Arizona has relied on Bivolcic and its other goalie, Anthony Ciurro, who started in Friday’s 4-0 win over the Sun Devils. The Wildcats were able to add another goal in the period, with this one coming off another power-play opportunity. The goal was scored by defenseman Manny Rowe.
Coach Chad Berman spoke after the game on what the win means for the program and addressed what it has been like playing against ASU this season.
“We didn’t play our best game this weekend but still managed to win the Cactus Cup on Friday and get another big win tonight,” Berman said. “Playing ASU is always a huge challenge, and next week will be a bigger battle. We have to get better.”
The Wildcats will play the Sun Devils again next weekend at the Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Ariz. The team will be without captain Anthony Cusanelli, who did not play in Sunday's victory, as he will be playing at the World University Games in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
The Wildcats will also look to clinch their first Western Collegiate Hockey championship with a win in either one of next weekend’s games. Arizona will then wait for its expected berth and seeding in the 2019 American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament, played March 21-26 in Dallas, Texas. Cusanelli figures to be back in time for the ‘Cats during the National Tournament.
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