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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Hockey hosts defending national champions

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Amy Webb
Wantanable, Jonathan

After the Arizona hockey team’s series against Michigan State last weekend, head coach Sean Hogan told his team in the locker room that the national tournament starts now and every game needs to have a playoff atmosphere.

It seems fitting then, that the No. 18 Wildcats begin their own personal national tournament this weekend by taking on defending champion No. 13 Davenport on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Tucson Convention Center.

“We need to get into that mentality that it’s either now or never, and these big-ticket games are going to be our way to the national tournament,” forward Blake Richards said. “We have to start playing like it’s the end of the season now, or we aren’t going to accomplish anything.”

With only six games left until the national tournament selections are announced, Arizona needs to make the most of its chances this weekend if it wants to rank high enough to make the tournament.

Davenport won’t be an easy opponent, but defender Jonathan Watanabe said the Wildcats are focusing on playing their own game right now.

“We are a quick team and we like to push the pace of the game,” Watanabe said. “If we can do that, skate hard, and work the puck down low, they’ll have a tough time keeping up with us.”

Davenport may be a little worn down after playing Tuesday and Wednesday in Tempe, losing 5-1 and 3-0 to No. 3 ASU. After it finishes its series against the Wildcats, Davenport will have played four games in five days.

“It’s good to know that maybe they will be a little (tired), but I’m sure they’ll come bringing their ‘A’ game,” Richards said. “They’re going to want to not leave here without a win.”

The Wildcats had their own struggles before this weekend too. The band Tool had a concert at the TCC Tuesday night, so the team had to travel to a practice facility in Chandler that is more than an hour away. But Richards said it better prepared team members and brought them closer as a team.

For Watanabe and Richards, as well as the rest of the seniors on the team, this will be their second-to-last series at home, making the games this weekend just that much more important for the Wildcats.

“I don’t think it’s hit me quite yet,” Richards said. “I know it will eventually, hopefully not too hard. It’s been great, I love playing in front of the fans and that’s something I’ll always take away from it.”

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