No. 7 Arizona hockey (23-4-3) is preparing to take on the No. 20 ASU Sun Devils (21-9-1) at home for the second time this season tonight. This first game will be followed by Senior Night on Saturday. Both games start inside Tucson Arena at 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats just won their second Western Collegiate Hockey League championship after Oklahoma lost to Missouri State 3-2 on Feb. 7. The Wildcats having lost to University of Nevada, Las Vegas 4-3 that same night, needed Oklahoma to lose to secure the title.
After winning the WCHL title, the Daily Wildcat caught up with head coach Chad Berman for a brief interview.
DW: I heard that you guys recently won back-to-back WCHS titles. How did it feel to get that?
CB: It feels great. I think the major goal of mine to start the year. I just think when you win a conference championship, that’s a great team, but when you win it back to back, that’s a great program. I think what it says is that we have a system of success in place. Considering how far this program has come in the last six years, it really definitely makes me proud.
DW: What is the team’s strategy for the second home series against ASU?
CB: We’ve made some adjustments that we have ready. We definitely changed up some things that they haven’t seen before. We’ve got a couple new bodies since they’ve seen us. We’ve got a couple less bodies since they’ve seen us. So honestly, since the Christmas break happened, we feel like we’re playing much better hockey this semester then last semester. So I like the direction were heading. We were humbled by them the last time we saw them. That’s not always a terrible thing, but we’re hungry and humble. … We’re very focused on what were doing.
DW: What is the strategy then, also going into the end of the season and the postseason, with the tournament coming up?
CB: I think we’re trying to keep a short focus as we have all year and I think it’s served well for us. So right now our objective is just to take care of Friday night. We want to get a good start. We’ve been off a couple of weeks, so we’re probably going to be a little rusty here to start, but at the same time, they’re coming off a long trip from Utah. So the first 10-20 minutes to me is going to be really important. We want to make sure that we’re setting the tone. As of yesterday, we’ve done so much film on them in preparation that now, today, it is just about us. Our pace of play that we want to set for the weekend. At the end of the day I think it is always about us, because when we play the game the right way and to our strengths, I think it doesn’t matter what the other team is doing.
DW: What direction is the team heading in the future in terms of losing players? And you mentioned you gained a few new players. Have you started recruiting yet?
CB: Yeah, definitely, recruiting is a year-round process. It really picks up now as far as getting into more serious talks as far as commitments and where things are sitting. We feel really good about the recruiting process. We, though, have a lot of our seniors graduating … and a lot of really important players. So we’ve got some holes to fill, but I think Malfronte and Lusby at Christmas break, those are kind of upstarts to the recruiting process for next year, so really good upstarts. We’ve already committed to a kid named Ryan Heck, who played in Florida with the Premier team. I’ve got a lot of good players who were on the line with me, but given the quality of players that we recruit being fringe Division 1-, Division 3-type players, you kind of let the process go. Those guys are really looking at all of their options. They’re not really ready to commit, but I got a good sense about who's serious about wanting to be a part of our program. That’s the way it’s got to be. You’ve got to want to be part of our program. I don’t really believe in convincing kids to come here. I provide information on what we can provide for an experience from an invitation standpoint, from a hockey standpoint and from what’s expected if you want to be a member of this program. Those who want to be here are the ones who are going to move forward.
DW: Other than Greg who you mentioned in the article, do you find yourself ever reaching out to kids who you met in Juniors? Do you recruit them that way?
CB: Yeah absolutely. I don’t think I recruit like most people. I think most people call 300 people on the phone during the summer and say, 'Hey this is our program, we really want you to come play for us.' I’m not really a believer in that. I prefer instead to create relationships, and I talk to kids who I’m not necessarily recruiting I think that’d be moving on to other avenues of their career, and if they come here, great, but to me it’s about building relationships first and foremost and how can I help people. I always believe in how I can provide value, and in return I think that that value will come back to you.
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