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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona hockey postseason chances slim after loss to Michigan State

Mike+Christy+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Icecats+fell+to+the+No.+1+Lindenwood+Lions+13-4+Friday+night+in+the+Tucson+Convention+Center.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Icecats fell to the No. 1 Lindenwood Lions 13-4 Friday night in the Tucson Convention Center.

Arizona hockey’s playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.

The Wildcats’ 3-2 loss to Michigan State on Friday took what looked like a smooth road to the school’s first playoff berth since 2004 and turned it into one filled with potholes.

“Every game after this becomes more critical,” said head coach Sean Hogan.

Hogan was visibly furious after the loss, and while the team recovered Saturday with a 3-2 comeback victory, the loss to the Division II Spartans at home will be a black mark on Arizona’s resume come selection time.

“I don’t think we played well really for any extended period of time all weekend,” Hogan said. “It was very frustrating to watch that.”

Arizona is tied with West Chester University at No. 18 in the latest ACHA poll, but both teams are currently on the outside of the tournament looking in because of the seven automatic bids given to conference champions.

The Wildcats, who are an independent, need to finish at No. 16 or higher when the rankings are released on Feb. 17 if they want to clinch an elusive tournament bid.

Arizona has last season’s champion in No. 13 Davenport coming to Tucson this weekend and a series with No. 3 Arizona State after that. The Wildcats’ strength of schedule will help their case if they can win those games. Losing isn’t an option.

“Everyone wants this national championship tournament and we are going to do it,” forward David Rizk said.

Still, the team will have an uphill climb after its uninspired effort on Friday.

What made the loss even more crushing is that the UA took a commanding lead early. Forward Scott Willson and defender Sean MacLachlan both scored within the first three minutes of the game, and the team has done a good job all season at maintaining leads.

But the UA allowed the Spartans to score three unanswered goals — including two in the final 12 minutes of the third period.

“I think everybody just came undone,” defender Shane Gleason said. “Everybody was really tired. We came out hard really fast at the beginning and I think everybody didn’t have too much left in the tank at the end.”

The season seemed on the verge of complete disaster Saturday with the Wildcats down 2-1 with only ten minutes left in the third period. But forward Andrew Murmes and captain Brian Slugocki salvaged the season — at least for now — with a pair of goals to win the game.

Hogan said the lone bright spot of Friday’s game was sophomore goalkeeper Steven Sisler who played in place of junior David Herman, who was out with a concussion.

“We do have a goalie battle on our hands,” Hogan said. “The kid has earned an opportunity to play, so we’ll what happens in the week of practice.”

But because this is Hogan’s first season at the helm of a team coming off of dramatic changes during the offseason, it wouldn’t be a failure if the Wildcats again missed out on the national tournament. And while the weekend did bring about Hogan’s 100th career ACHA win, it still won’t be a weekend that the Arizona will want to remember.

“With any sort of process, you are going to take a couple steps forward, a couple steps back,” Hogan said. “Hopefully we’ll be making more steps forward here in the next few weeks than steps back.”

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