After months of continually climbing in the rankings, the Weber State University hockey team ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in the West Region. The Wildcats finished the season 27-10-3, besting their record from a year ago.
“I can say that I am really not surprised,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor. “When you look at the teams that we have played throughout this year, there was no team that really dominated us. When we would play, for the most part we competed well with every team in the West.
“There was no team that was really dominant out there. We were the most dominant team out of everybody. Those boys deserved to be ranked No. 1.”
In achieving the No. 1 ranking, the team earned an automatic bid into the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament in March. Players on the team said they saw this as a long time coming.
“It feels good to be finally put in that No. 1 spot,” said WSU junior Phill Jennrich. “A lot of people think that Weber is very overrated and our capabilities aren’t as good as people make them. I think that that is complete bogus. I think we have a great team. When everyone shows up and everyone plays, I feel like we should be in that No. 1 spot.”
Jennrich said the team has proven it deserves the ranking. He feels like sometimes WSU doesn’t get the respect it deserves, especially after playing the toughest schedule in the Western Region.
“We have taken down the top teams, and even some Division 1 teams with our full roster,” he said. “They call it luck, but how can you be lucky four times in a row when you go against a top team? That just goes back to where we outworked them and we are a better team than them. We’ve shown that we are here to play.”
The Wildcats struggled out of the gate this season, acclimating the new freshmen and getting comfortable with each other. WSU also battled the injury bug, but still finished with a record of .500.
“We could have easily gave up and went 5-20,” Pfleegor said. “But that’s what’s nice about having depth on the team: You have guys that you can go to when somebody else is hurt. Once we got healthy in that second semester, you can look at the run that we had.”
The Wildcats were on the bubble of being the No. 1 team until they picked up two key wins over their rival.
“The two key games for us to really take that No. 1 spot was those home games against Utah State the first weekend back in the second semester,” Pfleegor said. “Those two games decided where we were going. We had to win the games that we were supposed to, and we did that. You look at our record, 27-10-3. Last year we were 26-10-3.”
The ranking was also the first time the Wildcats have been ranked No. 1 since the 1999 season, when Pfleegor was an assistant coach for WSU.
“It’s a big deal,” Pfleegor said. “It’s a big deal for the team, for the school, for the program, everything. It even helps recruit. You can tell kids, ‘Weber is No. 1, look at our record.’ Our record over the last two years is 56-21-6, including nationals. That does a lot for the program and does a lot for recruiting. When you win, it makes it a little bit easier.”
With the automatic bid, the Wildcats took advantage of the extra rest to get healthy to compete for the Mountain West Championship and the ACHA National Championship.
“Us getting that auto bid was huge,” said WSU team captain Braxton Green. “It saves us money and lets us rest. We had this last weekend off. It helped us get healthy. It was a big accomplishment from three or four years ago not being ranked to being ranked No 1.”