During this pandemic, the 2020-2021 season of the University of Arizona hockey team has been in a holding pattern. A tentative schedule is in place, but currently, head coach Chad Berman said that the team is waiting for clearance from UA Campus Health and the City of Tucson to finalize a return to play as well as the Tucson Convention Center to put ice in place to begin practicing.
Despite there being no ice to practice on, the team is currently practicing outdoors three times a week at Sitton Field on the UA campus to keep in shape and keep the team together, according to Berman.
Berman said he is excited about the returning core and the new additions that will add skill and depth to an already successful team that won the Arizona Cactus Cup and the Western Collegiate Hockey League Conference Championship before their 2019-2020 season suddenly ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryan Fischer, John Shively and George Orfanos are three players that Berman said will have an immediate impact when the team heads back to the ice.
When approaching recruiting, Berman said, “It’s about assembling pieces and not purely looking for the top scorers.”
Fischer is a skilled skater and mobile puck-moving defenseman coming from the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League. Berman described Fischer as a “Quinn Hughes” type of player who can contribute on the power play, effectively move the puck up the ice and jump into the offense.
“On film, it’s easy to tell that [Fischer] takes care of the small details especially come playoff time,” Berman said.
Shively is another defenseman added during the offseason who is effective on both ends of the ice. Shively comes from the NCAA Division III program at Buffalo State College, has a lot of experience backing up the power play and has the grit and bite to his game, according to Berman.
Berman said that Shively is great at timing his hits in his physical play and is effective in puck battles along the boards. Berman likened Shively to a “Torey Krug” type of player.
“Adding mobile puck movers has immense benefit to the forwards as we are a team that focuses on fast transitions,” Berman said.
Both are right-handed defensemen but Berman said that last season the team learned through injuries that you can never have too much defensive depth.
Orfanos, a forward, is joining a team with a skilled forward core including captain Anthony Cusanelli and assistant captain Bayley Marshall.
Playing for the Soo Eagles in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League during the 2019-2020 season, Orfanos posted 27 points in 50 games with 12 goals and 61 penalty minutes. Berman said Orfanos is a great package of size and speed, as a power forward he brings a physical edge and has a high level of offensive upside.
“[Orfanos] has a good hard wrist shot and is versatile as he can play center or on the wing with speed up the middle or on the outside,” Berman said.
These new additions are expected to further the progress of the UA Wildcats hockey program towards winning a national championship when the season begins.
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