WSU hockey clinches conference title with win

WSU vs DU 1-16-14 12-L
(Source: Joe Pfleegor)
Weber State University senior Robby Knott levels a defender in a game earlier this season. The Wildcats got a win Saturday over Montana Tech of the University of Montana.

Coming off of a loss to Montana Tech of the University of Montana on Friday night, the Weber State University hockey team bounced back to beat the Orediggers 4-2 on Saturday. The win moved the Wildcats to a record of 13-2-1-1, clinching first place in the Mountain West Conference.

“Good teams always find a way to win,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor. “You never want to go into a series with a team and get swept. We lost yesterday, and we knew we had to come out and play our game today. We had to get the puck in the net, and we did it. We came out with the split, that’s what matters.”

After falling behind early in Friday’s game against MT, the Wildcats controlled the game from the get-go. They controlled the puck for most of the first period, outshooting the Orediggers 25-10. But the MT goalie knocked away 24 of those shots.

The Wildcats’ lone goal in the first period came with nine minutes left in the period. Senior Curtis Snowball found teammate Kris Yelderman streaking in front of the net, and he buried it to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. WSU had another chance late in the period to score on a power play, but its shots were kicked aside.

WSU vs DU 1-16-14 42-L
(Source: Joe Pfleegor)
Weber State University senior Robby Knott handles the puck in a game earlier this season. Knott had a goal and an assist in Saturday’s win for the Wildcats.

“Today, we just went into the game with a different mindset,” said WSU sophomore Riley Hazeldine. “We focused up a little bit more and decided that we were going to come out a little bit harder and outwork the other team. We were going to come out and work like a team and figure things out, and it worked out for us.”

The whistles of the officials sound early and often in the second period. A total of 15 penalties were called in that period alone.

“It’s frustrating for the players sometimes,” Pfleegor said. “You have to let them know. You tell them that no matter what they say, the refs aren’t going to change the call. They just had to play through it, and they did. We had to kill off penalty after penalty.”

The Wildcats killed off five power plays, including a 5-on-3 power play to keep the lead. The Wildcats finally got another goal with four minutes left in the second period. Senior Josh Giudice found fellow senior Robby Knott, and he found the back of the net. That gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead going into the third period.

“We were more alive on the bench,” said WSU sophomore Alex Pizarro. “Our feet were moving faster and we were making smarter decisions.”

The Wildcats added to their lead five minutes into the third period. On a power play, Giudice found sophomore Jacob Holmes open, and he was able to get it past the goaltender. WSU added another goal three minutes later, this one from sophomore Dax Hobbs. That gave the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.

“They played ball today right from the get-go,” Pfleegor said. “We played hard and we capitalized. A lot of the guys stepped up. Players that don’t get much ice, they were called on today and they stepped up their game. It really made the difference.”

Even more penalties racked up in the third period, and the Orediggers used a few to get themselves on the board. With seven minutes left in the game, MT junior Matt Coverdale punched the goal into the net. Freshman Kyle Ceretzke added another power-play goal seven minutes later.

“We needed the win today,” Pizarro said. “We just played hard for it. We played together as a team and we got it. We knew we needed to win. We knew that we needed to come back hard and win. We are trying to hold second and get to nationals.”

The Wildcats will continue on the road Friday and Saturday, facing Division I opponent the University of Oklahoma. The Wildcats will then have a week off before finishing the season against MT at home on Feb. 9.