Leading up to the season opener, Arizona head coach Chad Berman stressed the importance to begin the season with a winning record. That’s exactly what the Wildcats did, sweeping the Northern Arizona University IceJacks in a two-game series this past weekend at the Tucson Convention Center.
Right wing John Hogan scored the first goal of the season for the Wildcats just 2:32 minutes into puck drop on Friday night. With Bryan Drazner netting Arizona’s second goal minutes later off a distant slap shot, it looked as if the Wildcats would easily run away with the victory.
Northern Arizona was not going to let that happen.
About a minute after Drazner’s goal, the IceJacks split the Wildcats lead in half. Almost ten minutes into the second period, Northern Arizona tied the game.
However, it would not take Arizona long to regain the lead as Hogan would score again to put the Wildcats back on top at 12:52 into the second period.
Trailing by a goal entering the third period, NAU forward Kirby Carlson would tie the game early in the last period of play, netting a hat trick against Arizona starting goalie Garrett Patrick.
Slightly under five minutes remaining in regulation, Arizona’s Kyle Griffin broke the tie which once again put Arizona in the lead. This time, the Wildcats were able to hold off the IceJacks 4-3, securing their first win of the season.
Fans on Saturday night got a glimpse of backup goaltender Austin Wilson, as he started in-between the pipes and earned his first shutout of the young season.
However, it was Arizona forward Roy Grandov who led the Wildcats to victory with the team’s first two goals on the power play. Grandov opened the scoring less than two minutes into the first period and scored again off a rebound four minutes into the second period. Alex O’Dea and Sean Gruenchagen knotted two more goals in the period to produce a 4-0 victory.
Arizona travels to take on the rival Arizona State this upcoming weekend at Gila River Arena, home of the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes.