Coming off of its best season in several years, the Weber State University hockey team entered the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament with confidence. However, going into their bracket, the Wildcats dropped their first match-up to Missouri State University by a score of 5-3 on Friday.
“Penalties killed us,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor. “We just took too many. That was something we talked about before the game. It’s all about discipline, especially when you get here to the national tournament. We just took penalties and they came back to bite us.”
Both teams came out with the big stage jitters, but they both got over those quickly. Both teams were very physical throughout the game. There were a total of 11 penalties, eight against the Wildcats.
“It wasn’t necessarily the penalties that killed us; it just took us out of our flow,” Pflegor said. “Five-on-five I felt we dominated, at least on our end. We outshot them, we outworked them. We get to a point in the game where we outplay them for 10 minutes, and then they would come down and take a shot and score.”
On a power play with seven minutes remaining in the first period, the Bears took advantage and scored the first goal of the game. The Wildcats had a few opportunities to get on the board, but they were unable to connect. The Wildcats outshot the Bears 30-27.
“The effort was there, and we were getting chances,” said WSU sophomore Dax Hobbs. “We just had a few that didn’t go our way. We had a few that went off the post. We had a few that should have gone in, but they were toe saves. We couldn’t get bounces.”
The Wildcats finally got on the board with just under three minutes to go. Hobbs found sophomore Jacob Holmes for the tying goal. The tie was short-lived, however. MSU scored another goal with 22 seconds left in the first period to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
“There were a couple of bad bounces that didn’t go our way that they capitalized on,” Hobbs said. “The first two goals were some of those goals where if you take the same play over, they don’t go in.”
The Bears capitalized on another power play early in the second period. But the Wildcats answered right back with a goal of their own. Just 15 seconds after the MSU goal, the Wildcats took the face-off, and junior Phill Jennrich found senior Robby Knott for the goal. That brought the Wildcats back to within one.
The Wildcats had a few more opportunities, but the MSU goaltender was a brick wall. The Bears added another late goal to take a two-goal lead into the final period.
“We had opportunities,” Pfleegor said. “Their goaltender made some key saves when he had to and we didn’t. Normally, when you allow less than 30 shots in a game, especially with our scoring power, we are going to win the hockey game. But that didn’t happen today.”
The Wildcats brought it back to a one-goal game when Jennrich found Jake Webber on a power play and he found the back of the net. But the Bears scored a goal with six minutes left to close the door on a comeback.
“The score doesn’t reflect how the game really was,” Hobbs said. “We outshot them, we outplayed them, and we did everything. The only thing is we took more penalties than they did. They capitalized on them. It was a 5-3 game and we gave up two power-play goals. Without the penalties, it’s a 3-3 game. Penalties killed us this game.”
The Wildcats also played games Saturday and Sunday. Those games will be covered in the Wednesday edition of The Signpost and at www.wsusignpost.com.