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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: UA hockey has done enough to earn postseason bid

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The expectations for this year’s Arizona hockey team were undoubtedly low after the team finished last season with one of its worst records at 11-22-3. 

A year later, the Wildcats have turned heads with a turnaround campaign, as they have recorded wins against three teams in the ACHA top 10. 

These quality wins, coupled with the Wildcats’ competitiveness against top-ranked teams in the conference, should make them a lock for the ACHA Division I National Tournament. 

A national tournament bid for Arizona was certainly in question after the team stumbled out of the gate, losing six of its first nine games, including an 8-1 shellacking at the hands of ASU’s new Division I team. 

The month of November was a critical one for Arizona. The Wildcats arguably saved their season with a much-needed sweep of Colorado State and an incredible effort against No. 3 Minot State. 

Minot State currently holds a 31-2-2 record and all four times Arizona has played the powerhouse, the Wildcats have lost by one goal. 

The Wildcats’ fight in those games speaks volumes to the strides Arizona has made throughout the season and further illustrates why the team belongs in the national tournament. 

Additionally, Arizona’s two other quality wins speak for themselves. The Wildcats upset Ohio University, which boasts a 28-1-1 record, and beat the University of Oklahoma on the road in a shootout by a score of 1-0.

There’s no doubt that Arizona has had its fair share of bad losses this season against Midland University, Missouri State and dropping the first four meetings against ASU’s Division II team. 

But when the Wildcats have been put in high pressure situations against top teams in the conference, they have risen to the occasion, battled and come away with three wins that should carry them to their first national tournament berth since the 2013-2014 season. 

Currently, the Wildcats are ranked No. 15 in the ACHA with national tournament spots belonging to the top 17 teams. 

Last weekend, Arizona played Minot State and lost both games by one goal, 1-0 and 2-1. Arizona had potential goals waived off by the officials in both games, which further asserts how well Arizona plays against top talent. 

The ACHA uses two computer rankings from USHSHO.com and averages the two to come up with the conference’s top-25 rankings. 

It’s hard to tell how far teams move and drop with computerized rankings coupled with varying results throughout the conference. But Arizona should not drop out of the top 17 given the close games against Minot State.

On Wednesday when the final national tournament rankings come out, the Wildcats should have reason to celebrate: they have won enough quality games and played well enough against top opponents to earn them a trip to Robert Morris Illinois University in March, to compete against the top teams of the ACHA.


Follow Seth Pines on Twitter 


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