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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


The 2016-2017 season has started, so catch up with this year’s new IceCats

Darien Bakas

Arizona forward Roy Grandov (middle) attempts to shoot a goal on ASU’s goalkeeper on Feb. 19, 2016. Arizona came into the season ranked No. 14 in the ACHA rankings.

Chad Berman, entering his third season as the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats’ hockey team, has set high expectations for his squad. He believes something special is brewing for the university’s club team. 

“Coming to a program that was depleted and not successful … gave me the opportunity as first-time head coach to come in and make it my own,” Berman said.

Having flushed away the remnants of what was once a mediocre program, Berman has recruited some of hockey’s elite prospects, installed a family atmosphere in the locker room and built a team capable of making a run at the American Collegiate Hockey Association Championship this spring. 

With a talented team captain in Dylan Carter, the hype surrounding this team is beyond legit. 

“We are much deeper than we were last season; down to the last guy on our roster, there is talent on this team,” Berman said. “In one recruiting class along, we are already a stronger, faster and much more skilled, which is a huge improvement.” 

    Related: Video: Arizona IceCats promo video (scroll down to bottom)

The dynamic twin duo of John Hogan and Brian “Toppie” Hogan will once again be at Arizona’s helm. Considering the twin pairing combined for 12 goals, 14 assists and 26 points last year, it would be in good faith to think they will be factors for this season’s team. 

Top newcomer Robert Sythe will look to make a name for himself as the former elite prospect enters a new of level play and with that, has high expectations of his own. 

“Sythe is going to have a chance at making the World University Game for team USA coming up,” Berman said. “He’s got a pro shot, [is an] extremely talented kid and is a no-brainer to hve an impact on this team.” 

If the team can remain consistent throughout the season and “go the extra mile and be great,” as Berman puts it, the Wildcats could be able to make a deep run. Arizona entered the season ranked No. 14 in the pre-season nationwide poll, but also started a new campaign without an overwhelming weakness in the Western Collegiate Hockey League.

There will be no easy matchup for the Wildcats this season, as eight of the teams they face this year are ranked in the ACHA Division I pre-season top 25. Facing the top teams in the country could be just what Berman needs to get the very best out of this players, or it could derail the season all together. 

Diving into the schedule, the games against No. 19 ASU promise to be the most entertaining and possibly heartbreaking. Other standout games feature a home game against No. 2 Minot State, a small school in North Dakota, and a near cross-country trip to face Arkansas, No. 20 in the pre-season poll.

    Related: IceCats season a success despite early exit

In terms of the roster, this team has all the makings to be a very exciting one in the 2016-2017 season. They have the speedsters, they have skill guys, they have the grinders and, most importantly, they have a returning team captain in left winger Carter—something they haven’t had in a long time. 

“Without question, Carter is the engine that makes us go,” Berman told UA hockey media. “He’s a natural leader that sets the tone with his work ethic. It’s the small details in his game that really stand out. A great example would be last year’s overtime game-winner in the National Tournament. It was easy to recognize the beautiful play between the Hogan twins. That play doesn’t have a chance to develop without Carter’s gutsy back check, sending the play the other way.” 

Defenseman Matt Armenti looks to make a strong pairing with fellow defenseman Nick Zellmer. They complement each other well on the ice, both standing at 6-foot-1. 

The line of Orion Olsen, Roy Grandov and Tyler Griffith looks to be the grinding line—the guys who aren’t afraid to go the extra mile, chase down pucks and block shots.

Berman also said goalies Austin Wilson and Garrett Patrick are both candidates to be in net this season, and that they will both be competing for a starting job. Goalie Warren Hill is also making strides in the right direction.

The excitement around this team is palpable, as everyone in the organization believes this year’s squad has the chance to be a very special team.

The IceCats have started off the season at 4-2 after taking three games from NAU and one from the University of Central Oklahoma, before dropping two to the Oklahoma Sooners. 

The No. 15 IceCats next face No. 19 ASU in Tempe on Friday at 7 p.m.

Follow Noah Auclair and Noah Sonnet on Twitter.

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