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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Arizona hockey season a success despite early postseason exit

Members+of+the+UA+hockey+team+line+up+with+the+AZ+Junior+Wildcats+before+playing+against+ASU+on+Feb.+19%2C+2016.+The+team+made+it+to+the+second+round+of+the+ACHA+Men%26%238217%3Bs+Division+I+National+Tournament+before+falling+to+Minot+State+last+Friday.+
Darien Bakas
Members of the UA hockey team line up with the AZ Junior Wildcats before playing against ASU on Feb. 19, 2016. The team made it to the second round of the ACHA Men’s Division I National Tournament before falling to Minot State last Friday.

The Arizona hockey season came to a close after the team fell to Minot State in the round of 16 of the ACHA Men’s Division I National Tournament on Friday. While the season may have come to an end for the Wildcats, Friday night marked the beginning of a new era for the program. 

Arizona accomplished what no prior Wildcat team had done in the past 13 years: win a game in the National Tournament. The Wildcats achieved this feat by beating Western Michigan 5-4 on Thursday night in a game in which they trailed three different times. 

The team’s performance, coupled with its young and explosive roster, will make it a contender in the ACHA for the foreseeable future. 

Head coach Chad Berman faced many challenges in his second season at the helm of Arizona following last year’s abysmal campaign when the team went 11-22-3. Things were looking bleak for the team after it started 3-6, but Berman made critical decisions in terms of player personnel to solidify the direction of the team. 

Berman elected to start goaltender Austin Wilson for the majority of the rest of Arizona’s games and brought in transfer players Brian Schehr and Tyler Griffith to bolster the team’s depth at the forward position. 

These moves aided in the wins against three top-10 opponents, which helped catapult the Wildcats into the National Tournament. 

The team lost to the No. 1 seed Minot State on Friday night for the fifth time this season, but at the same time this year’s squad set a standard to what future Arizona teams should strive for: making a run in the postseason.

Given the fact the Wildcats only have one graduating senior, this year makes them a favorite to return to the National Tournament and go even deeper with their returning core of players. 

Arguably the most important area of any team is the goaltender position and Berman is presented with a good problem to have in deciding which one of his net-minders to go with. Wilson won the job late in the season with his stellar play and back-up Garrett Patrick gave the team solid work in his appearances. 

Both will return next season for Arizona and will each return stronger and give the Wildcats a chance to win, which they both did numerous times this season. 

Looking back on the season, it could easily be argued that the team exceeded expectations given its first round National Tournament win and a handful of victories against top teams in the conference. But more importantly, it could be argued that Arizona has reasserted itself as a program that is ready to replicate the success of years past. 


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