WSU hockey eliminated from national tournament

(Source: Linlee Jones)
Weber State University freshman Colby Atkinson stands in the goal during the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament. The Wildcats were eliminated Sunday, finishing third in their bracket.

Coming off of a loss in its first game against Missouri State University during the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament, the Weber State University hockey team needed to win its remaining two games to have a chance to advance to the semifinals.

The Wildcats were unable to do so, losing the game Saturday to Pennsylvania State University 7-1, the same team that eliminated the Wildcats last season in the national tournament. The Wildcats bounced back on Sunday with a 9-7 win against Northeastern University, finishing third in their bracket.

“(Losing the bracket) was obviously not what we wanted, but we had a great year,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor. “In the last game, because it had no bearing, it just makes it tough. We just had to reach down inside and find what motivates us to play the game. Everyone has a reason as to why they play this game, and that is what we needed to play for.”

In the first game, the Wildcats’ lone goal came five minutes into the second period. With the Wildcats already down two goals, WSU sophomore Jake Webber received a pass from Curtis Snowball, and he found the net to make it a 2-1 game.

The Wildcats had another opportunity a minute later, but after a shot hit the crossbar, the Ice Lions took the rebound and scored to push the lead back to two goals. The Wildcats outshot PSU 17-6 in the final period, but the Ice Lions scored four goals in the final period while blanking WSU. The Wildcats lost the game 7-1.

“I really believe if we would have converted a goal when we were down 2-1 that it could have been a lot different,” Pfleegor said. “Robby Knott literally juked the goalie out of his pants, and his shot went off the crossbar. Then 50 seconds later they went down and scored. Then, instead of being a 2-2 game, it was 3-1.”

(Source: Linlee Jones)
Weber State University senior Braxton Green takes a face-off during the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament. Green scored his final goal for the Wildcats on Sunday, helping WSU get a win in its final game.

The Wildcats went into the final game out of contention to move on, but the team wanted to get a win in its final game of the season, especially for the seniors graduating in April. The Wildcats defeated NU 9-7.

“It helped that it was Braxton (Green’s), Josh Giudice’s and Robby Knott’s last game,” Pfleegor said. “The team played for them. We wanted them to go out with a win.”

During the NU game, the Wildcats took an early advantage on a penalty shot. Sophomore Dax Hobbs squeezed the puck past the Huskies’ goaltender.

The Wildcats added another goal with two minutes left in the period. On a broken power play by the Huskies, the Wildcats pushed the puck forward and Jeremiah Holmes found the net, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.

“In a game like that, there was no defense,” Pfleegor said. “I think a lot of it was just fun. The teams just wanted to score.”

And score they did. In the second period, the teams scored five goals apiece. The Huskies scored on two power-play goals in the period. Kris Yelderman and Alex Pizarro had goals for the Wildcats. WSU junior Phill Jennrich had two goals in the second period, and Hobbs added his second goal of the game. The Wildcats went into the second intermission again with a 7-5 lead.

WSU senior Braxton Green scored his final goal of his five-year career for the Wildcats four minutes into the third period. After the Huskies cut the lead to one after a power-play goal with 17 seconds left, Holmes fired a shot with seven seconds left that hit the nylon, giving the Wildcats their final goal of the season.

“It was a crazy game,” Green said. “There was a lot of scoring. Both us and Northeastern came in without a win, so we both wanted to win it. When one team would score, the other one would score 20 or 30 seconds later. But I’m glad we got to go out with a win. Everyone played hard, and we at least won one game while we were here.”

The Wildcats finished their season with a record of 29-12-3. They won the Mountain West Hockey League Championship and were the top-ranked team in the western region.