via The Daily Wildcat
The Arizona hockey team continued its march toward a national tournament berth after an impressive win in its three-game weekend set.
The Wildcats beat then-ranked No. 8 Colorado in a dominating fashion on Saturday night by a score of 6-1, avenging the team’s loss to the Buffaloes the night prior and to Colorado State on Thursday.
Sophomore goaltender Austin Wilson started all three games for the UA in Colorado, and shined bright on Saturday as he stonewalled the Buffs, turning away 31 shots.
“I would say he has certainly earned the right to be ‘the guy,’” Arizona head coach Chad Berman said. “He was excellent this weekend, which is why we chose him to play him all three games.”
Wilson had a rough go on Thursday night, as the CSU Rams scored two quick goals Arizona was ultimately unable to recover from— the Wildcats fell 4-0.
On the following night against Colorado, the Ludington, Michigan, net-minder rebounded and led his team into a shootout after stopping 36 shots in regulation and overtime. Arizona was unable to score and lost 2-1.
“This weekend helped my confidence,” Wilson said. “After a rough first period on Thursday, coach and the team had the confidence in me to get the job done.”
The Wildcats got off to a quick start on Saturday night as Brian “Toppie” Hogan recorded his team-leading ninth goal to give Arizona an early cushion in the first period.
In the middle frame, the Wildcats’ offensive woes became a thing of history as Arizona shocked the Buffs with four unanswered goals. Before Saturday’s contest, Arizona had scored only four goals in its previous four games.
Arizona's offensive outburst in the second period carried the Wildcats to their second upset of a top-10 team in the past three weeks.
“We were fully aware of how important that game was for us to get into the National Tournament,” Berman said. “What we saw was what we are fully capable of when we string together a full 60 minutes of hockey in all three zones.”
Arizona’s last appearance in the ACHA National Tournament was in the 2013-2014 season. The top 17 teams qualify for the tournament and as of last week’s ranking, Arizona was ranked No. 15.
The Wildcats face a tough test this weekend as they travel to North Dakota to take on No. 3 Minot State, who hold an impressive record of 27-2-2.
Arizona pushed Minot to the brink when the teams last played each other in November. Arizona lost in a shootout to the then No.-1-ranked Beavers in their first meeting and lost a close one-goal game the following night.
Arizona will look to carry its momentum and upbeat attitudes from last weekend as it makes the long road trip to the Midwest.
“The overall vibe of the team is great right now after the three-game weekend,” forward Sean Gruenhagen said. “We learned a lot about ourselves and the true potential of what we have.”
Arizona plays Minot State on Friday and Saturday night with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on both nights.