For the second time in eight days, the Weber State University hockey team came out on top against the University of Utah. The rivalry game ended in a 4-2 victory for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats split the season series 2-2 against the Utes, with both teams winning their home games. The Wildcats improved to 9-8-2 on the season.
“It’s usually a good bout with those guys,” said WSU junior Jesse Love. “We split it with them, twice there and twice here. It would be good to play at least once or twice more and see who really is the better team — that would be good.”
The Wildcats started out aggressive in the first period, controlling the ball in their zone for the first seven minutes of the game. Ute goalie Chris Komma once again had a strong showing in the first period, knocking aside every shot the Wildcats threw his way.
The Utes finally had a chance on a power play. This time, it was WSU goalie Ian Frank with the stellar saves.
The Wildcats got on the board first with seven minutes remaining in the first period. The Wildcats were moving the puck well, slinging it all around the ice. In a quick two-assist goal, senior Robby Knott scored with passes from junior Phill Jennrich and freshman Jake Webber.
“We are working on our passing every week in practice, and you can see it,” Knott said. “Our power play is on fire right now. We are hitting the open man and we aren’t being selfish. Everything is a team effort out there, and that’s why we are having success.”
The Utes answered right back with a goal of their own. Off of a blocked shot, freshman Josh Dangel snagged the rebound and found freshman Chase McDonald with Frank out of place. That tied the game at 1-1.
The Wildcats regained the lead just seconds later. Off of the faceoff, Webber found freshman Kody Rodriguez streaking toward the goal and delivered the pass that was shot immediately into the nylon.
In a complete reversal, the Utes controlled the puck to start the second period. Both teams were hitting hard in the second period, but neither gained the advantage over the other.
Things got heated toward the end of the second period, as multiple players were sent to the penalty box for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Wildcats padded their lead with a little less than six minutes to go. Sophomore Jeremiah Holmes found Love near the blue line and fired it just over Komma’s shoulder, bringing the lead to 3-1.
“I originally had the puck,” Love said. “I gave it right back to the forward, Jeremiah Holmes. He ended up getting pressured right up on the circle. He gave it right back to me; I got a chance to look up, saw an opening with no blocker, and it just happened to trickle in.”
Just 20 seconds later, the Wildcats pushed the lead to three as the puck was fired toward the goal. Jennrich found sophomore Kris Yelderman, and he found the back of the net. The period ended with the Wildcats up 4-1.
“Once we got some momentum and got those goals, the big thing for us is that we didn’t let up,” said assistant coach Yosh Ryujin. “Sometimes you get into a situation like that where you get up by three goals, (and) you kind of take your foot off the gas and start sitting back.”
In the third period, both teams were quiet, neither able to establish dominance of the push. The Utes were able to bring the lead to just two goals with 11 minutes remaining as McDonald scored again, this time off of an assist from sophomore Shaymus Bertagnolli.
“Our guys came out, especially in the third period, and kept playing hard and they kept forcing the play,” Ryujin said. “Ultimately, we were able to wrap up the game that way instead of just sitting back and waiting for it.”
With little more than five minutes left, the Utes were called for a major penalty, leaving them one man down for the rest of the match, thwarting their chances of a comeback. The final score was 4-2.
“It was a team effort,” Knott said. “The team is starting to come together and be a family. Once a hockey team becomes a family, it becomes a dangerous unit on the ice. It’s still early in the year, but it’s good to have that team unity already. Hopefully we can carry it on through April.”
WSU will be back in action Saturday as they travel to Logan to face conference rival Utah State University.