The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

57° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Hockey misses tournament but ultimately has successful first season

title
Amy Webb
title

With the season finally in the books for the No. 21 Arizona hockey team, it’s time to look back at the first year of the re-branded Wildcats.

What happened

The season began amid major upheaval as the head coach and general manager for 32 years, Leo Golembiewski, was replaced by 33-year-old Sean Hogan — marking the transition from Icecats to an official club sport.

The Wildcats started slow, going 1-3-1, with all games coming on the road against ranked opponents. Things quickly turned around after the Wildcats split the series against then-No. 8 Iowa State. Their shootout victory in Ames, Iowa, started a 237-minute shutout streak during which Arizona outscored its opponents 47-0. After dropping two in a row to end the streak, the Wildcats beat then-No. 7 Oklahoma and then-No. 6 Ohio in consecutive games. Things went south after that, however, as the Wildcats finished the season 4-11-2, a stretch that included an eight-game winless streak. Arizona finished 13-18-3 on the season.

“I couldn’t be happier with this last season,” said assistant captain and senior Geordy Weed. “Coming in with a new coach, setting up a new start with the school, and the school backing (for) my senior year was just awesome.”

Highlight reel

The back-to-back victories against Oklahoma and Ohio signified a turning point for the program, and while the Wildcats couldn’t maintain that level of play, they showed they had the ability to compete with any team in the country. The Ohio victory was especially meaningful since it came at home after Arizona scored three third-period goals on its way to a 3-1 victory.

However, Weed was fonder of a different game — the win over Iowa State.

“That was the first top ranked team that we beat,” Weed said. “And Iowa (State) is an awesome team and I was just happy to see all of our systems come together and work that well.”

Rock bottom

A last-second home loss to Division-II Colorado was painful, especially since the Wildcats tied the game at five just minutes before the Buffaloes’ game-winning goal with 14 seconds left. However, the 0-7-1 record against ASU this season — continuing what’s now a 24-game winless streak against the Sun Devils — was much more jarring and significant for the program.

“It just sucks. There aren’t a lot of words to describe it,” captain Brian Slugocki said after losing again to ASU last weekend. “It’s heartbreaking every time because (the games are always close).”

MVP

The race came down to two forwards — sophomore Andrew Murmes and senior Brady Lefferts. Murmes leads the team with 51 points but his line-mate Lefferts is close behind with 49. Lefferts, an assistant captain, also had 25 goals on the season — five more than the Murmes, who was second in goals. However, the line itself, made up of Lefferts, Murmes and forward Blake Richards, was the most valuable aspect of the team. It might be too easy to just pick the entire line, but Richards, another senior, was third on the team with 30 points. The line was the constant offensive force all season, and it even provided five of the eight game-winning goals on the season.

Outlook for next year

In addition to Lefferts, Richards and Weed, the team is also losing four more seniors — defender Jonathan Watanabe, who was fourth on the team in scoring, defenders Shane and Sean MacLachlan, who brought a level of physicality with their identical 6-foot-2, 190-pound frames, and forward Chad Wade who had three goals on the season.

While the team is losing talent, it should have four of its top seven scorers returning. Also, as Hogan has said, the returning players now know his systems and can help teach the incoming players, making the learning curve a lot less steep next year.

“We are going to build this into a strong program with a team that was (already) here when I got here,” Hogan said. “We are going to keep building and getting better and better.”

More to Discover
Activate Search