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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Struggles continue for Icecats

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Icecats fell to Eastern Washington by a final of 1-6 Friday night at their home opener at Tucson Convention Center.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Icecats fell to Eastern Washington by a final of 1-6 Friday night at their home opener at Tucson Convention Center.

Although the Icecats (2-7) struggled with intensity and focus at UNLV two weekends ago, they didn’t expect problems with desire and concentration during the team’s home opener in front of thousands of fans.

That wasn’t the case.

Playing their first game at the Tucson Convention Center since Feb. 21, the Icecats were swept at the hands of Eastern Washington University Friday and Saturday, extending their losing streak to four games.

“”The players have got to play intense,”” said head coach Leo Golembiewski. “”They got fandom, they got an arena, they got a coaching staff. Do what you’re supposed to do — it’s just that simple.””

The Icecats were unable to do what they were supposed to do this weekend, as they were outscored 11-3. In the Icecats’ last four games, all losses, they have been outscored 27-9.

In the first game of the series, sophomore forward Brady Lefferts got the Icecats on the board early with a goal 1:14 into the game. But for the next 58:46, the Icecats’ offense was nonexistent.

Two minutes after Lefferts’ goal, Eastern Washington defenseman Justin Crosby answered with a score of his own. Eastern Washington added two more goals in the period and never looked back en route to a 6-1 victory.

As has been the case for the majority of the season, the Icecats were outshot by a staggering 25 shots, 48-23.

“”Our biggest Achilles heel is we’ve got to shoot the puck,”” Golembiewski said. “”You have the opportunity, you’ve got to turn around and drill it. You can’t score unless you shoot.””

The Icecats had some chances to put the puck in the net — seven power plays — but never got the rhythm and chemistry necessary to get solid shot attempts. 

They did a much better job creating opportunities for themselves in game two, as they were only outshot 44-40. But even with the increase in shots on goal, the Icecats weren’t able to muster up enough offense to warrant a victory.

Game two was a stalemate through one period, and it appeared the Icecats would take the lead, with freshman Brian Slugocki attempting a penalty shot. Slugocki missed the shot, and Eastern Washington scored a breakaway goal on the next play.

That sequence appeared to be the turning point, and the Icecats were never able to bounce back. They were down 2-0 heading into the third when Slugocki scored 27 seconds into the period.

Spanning across games one and two, it was the team’s first goal in 99 minutes and 19 seconds. Not exactly the same Icecat offense that scored 17 goals in three games at the showcase.

Eastern Washington once again answered the Icecat goal, as center Taylor McClay scored 3:58 into the final period. Another Eastern Washington goal two minutes later sealed the deal for the Eagles, who eventually won 5-2.

Junior goaltender Nick Taylor was the sole bright spot for the Icecats, as he kept the game competitive in his first career start. Despite only playing nine minutes last season, Taylor was ready and kept the team in the game even as the offense sputtered.

Although the goaltending may be improving, the Icecats have a slew of other issues that need to be resolved.

“”I know what I saw in Ohio (at the ACHA Showcase), and this is not the same team that I saw in Ohio,”” said associate coach Dave Dougall. “”We’re not playing with that same intensity and fire that we had.””

The Icecats were missing one of their biggest sources of intensity, Geordy Weed, due to a family commitment, but the loss of one person was no excuse for a lack of desire. Golembiewski made it clear that rotations will begin to tighten, and if players are not giving their all out on the ice, they will sit.

“”Ice time is at stake,”” Golembiewski said. “”If you want to play in this building you’re going to skate, you’re going to shoot, you’re going to play your position and you’re going to play with heart.””

The Icecats are on the same path as last year by losing so many early games, and need to dig themselves out of this hole before it is too late.

“”Last couple of years, we’ve had slow starts and have managed to pull it together, but it’s not something we can sit around and wait for,”” said co-captain Jordan Schupan. “”We need to speak with our actions on the ice right now.””

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