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The Weber State University hockey team won its first two games over the four-day weekend, defeating the Brigham Young University Cougars on the road Thursday night, 5-3. The Wildcats then returned home for the first time in a month on Friday to take on the University of Denver Pioneers, defeating them 7-3.
“The one thing that I was most impressed with tonight — we played as a team,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor on Friday. “We played as a unit. We’ve been missing that the whole year. Everyone was enthused about the game. They were having fun out there and working hard. If you work hard and have fun, it will pay off. The wins will follow.”
On Thursday, the Cougars got out to an early lead, scoring with seven minutes left in the first period. The Wildcats answered right back, scoring three straight goals, including one just 25 seconds after the first Cougar goal. BYU cut the lead to 3-2 in the third period, but the score never got within reach again, as WSU scored two goals in the final period. WSU won the game 5-3.
Junior Phil Jennrich led the Wildcats, netting two goals and an assist in the game.
“I’ve been moving my feet, hitting a lot more, and I guess just getting lucky,” Jennrich said. “That’s how they go in. It’s just luck. You place it, and hopefully the goalie is not there.”
On Friday night, the Wildcats got on the board first as sophomore Dax Hobbs intercepted a Pioneer pass and found sophomore Coleman Ashworth streaking down the ice. Ashworth caught the goalie out of position and scored, giving the Wildcats the lead 1-0.
The Wildcats gave the momentum back as they were penalized, giving UD a one-man advantage. The Wildcats held strong for the majority of the power play, but in the final seconds, freshman Tyler Smith stole a Wildcat pass and scored to tie the game at 1-1.
The Wildcats regained the lead with just less than four minutes to go as freshman Jake Webber scored off of a faceoff win from freshman Tyler Arnold. The Wildcats took the lead 2-1, which is where the period ended.
The Wildcats took advantage of an early opportunity, converting a power play into another goal, this one again by Webber, with the assist coming from senior Braxton Green. That brought the Wildcat lead to 3-1.
The Wildcats had been struggling to convert on power plays, but they were able to turn several opportunities into goals in Friday’s contest.
“It got to the point where you just had to change the personnel,” Pfleegor said. “That’s what we did. We made some adjustments, changed some lines around. The power play worked perfect tonight. That’s what we really wanted to see. It worked well with the personnel changes. It paid off.”
The Pioneers got back into the game with 13 minutes to go in the second period. On a power play, sophomore Hayden Chisholm scored to bring the Wildcat lead to just one, 3-2.
The Wildcats scored on another power play with just six minutes left in the second period. Freshman Kody Rodriguez found the net off of a pass from Jennrich, which came from behind the net, bringing the WSU lead to 4-2, which is where the second period ended.
The Wildcats wasted no time in starting the third period, scoring in the first minute, again on a power play. This time it was a goal by Jennrich from Rodriguez, bringing the WSU lead to 5-2.
The Pioneers made a game of it, scoring with just more than nine minutes to go, bringing the lead to two goals.
The Wildcats had the goal that broke the camel’s back with two minutes to go, with Jennrich once again scoring, this time on an unassisted breakaway goal. The Wildcats scored another goal for good measure with 11 seconds left, this one coming from Arnold. The final score was 7-3.
“We’ve been away for a long time,” Jennrich said. “To have all our fans, our student base, come out and supporting us, they have no idea, when you have 20 fans compared to 250 fans, how much more adrenaline, how much more you want to be on the ice and show Weber that we are here to play and that we want to keep winning.
The wins moved the Wildcats to 5-6-2 on the season, and 4-0-2 in the Mountain West Collegiate Hockey League. Both UD and BYU are Mountain West Collegiate Hockey League members.
The Wildcats also played on Saturday and Sunday. Those games will be covered in the Wednesday issue of The Signpost, as well as on www.wsusignpost.com.