Cover Photo Credit: Daniel Cervantes, KAMP Student Radio
Coming into the final game before Thanksgiving break for both the Arizona Wildcats of the ACHA and the Oregon Ducks of the Pac-8, there was reason for intrigue.
Entering Saturday, the visiting Ducks were 11-1-0, coming off of their first loss of the season just the day before against Grand Canyon University's D2 squad 3-2 in Phoenix. Before that, they had gone 11 straight without a loss, with seven straight on the road to that point as the Ducks currently remain on a brutal 12-game road trip. Heading to the Tucson Arena to play the Wildcats, it marked their ninth straight road game.
Opposing the reigning Pac-8 Champs were the Wildcats, ranked #14 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association's, or ACHA's, top division. Arizona started off their season 10-5-0, entering the game on a six-game win streak dating back to October 29th, their previous result a strong 5-2 victory at Colorado.
For the game, Arizona donned their alternate red uniforms while Oregon brought out their whites.
On paper, both teams were quite evenly matched, the first period reflecting so as it took until 18:31 had gone for the first piece of action to come via a tripping penalty on Oregon defenseman Nick Slayton. Up one man on the power play, Arizona promptly drove up the pace of the offense, seeking a goal. As the time ticked down in the first period, John Shively set up a shot for Alex Johanson. Johanson's shot was blocked but slipped past Oregon goaltender Rodney Peterson, trickling across the line as the horn went off to indicate the end of the period. The officials came together and ultimately judged that the puck had crossed just before, giving Arizona a buzzer-beater goal and a 1-0 lead to take into the second period.
Coming out of the locker room for the second period, Arizona kept their foot on the gas. Only 1:19 in, Shively took a well-placed shot to beat Peterson with the assists coming from Johanson and Anthony Cusanelli, Arizona extending the lead to 2-0. The period then became a balanced set of shots in which both goaltenders refused to give in. During this period, Arizona goaltender Rhett Kimmel displayed his fantastic reflexes as a shot was deflected over him, bound for the net. Skillfully using his stick, he batted the puck out of the air away from goal, preserving the shutout. Oregon had more opportunities to score in the period as they went on the power play twice due to two Arizona tripping penalties on Riley McCauley (13:12) and Matthew Hohl (17:07) respectively. Despite this, the Ducks couldn't find the back of the net.
Entering the third period, the crowd could tell that the Ducks' composure was beginning to falter. Once again attacking early, Cusanelli found the back of the net with aid from Max Meyer, making it 3-0 Arizona after only 1:21 into the third. A few minutes later, 9:18 in, Arizona made it 4-0 as Will Josephson set up Jesse Lowell for the goal. This final goal effectively iced the game as Oregon's composure continued to falter with extra emphasis on large hits, including a double-team hit that ultimately set up the 4-0 goal by drawing two defenders away from the middle of the defensive zone to set Lowell up. After 18:18 had gone by, the last penalty of the game would be called on Arizona's Josephson for slashing. The crowd chanted "Bring up the bus!" as the final minutes ticked down and the horn finally blew to signal the end of the game.
With the victory, Arizona improved to 11-5-0 on the year with their win streak now at seven. Oregon meanwhile was dealt their second straight loss, dropping to 11-2-0 on the year. Arizona played a well-rounded game with six players earning points for their play. Johanson, Shively, and Cusanelli all ended their game with a goal and an assist while Lowell earned a goal of his own, and Meyer and Josephson finished with an assist apiece.
After this match-up, both teams get the week of Thanksgiving off. Arizona's 2021-22 campaign resumes on December 3rd as they host rival Arizona State for the first game of a two-game weekend set on Friday and Saturday night. Oregon meanwhile will look to regroup after the additional setback on the 2nd as they head up to Logan, Utah to play Utah State in their tenth straight road game and the first of three straight nights of play as they will then play Utah in Salt Lake City the next two days.