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After seven years of waiting, the Weber State University hockey team finally got a win in Logan over its archrival, Utah State University, on Friday. The Wildcats started out strong and held off a late Aggie surge to win the game 7-6.
“The last win in Logan was 2006, so seven years ago,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor. “It was great to see. The boys fought hard and they played well. It was one of those games that you were happy for our seniors. They have been here for five years and never beat Utah State in Logan ever.”
The Wildcats controlled the puck early in the first period, placing several shots on net. However, the Aggie goaltender knocked every shot aside, keeping the game scoreless in the first few minutes.
The Aggies had some tries of their own against Wildcat goalie Colby Atkinson, but he also knocked away shot after shot, leaving the game tied at zero.
The Wildcats finally broke the scoreless game when they had a 5-3 advantage on a power play. Senior Robby Knott outskated the Aggie defenders and found the net to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead with nine minutes left in the first period.
The Wildcats struck again with three minutes left in the first period. Braxton Green was in the right place as an Aggie puck handler lost control. Green scooped up the puck and fired it into the net. The first period ended with the Wildcats up 2-0.
The Wildcats were one man down on a power play to begin the second period, but after taking the puck into the Aggie zone, Jeremiah Holmes intercepted a pass from the goalie and fired it right into the net, giving WSU a 3-0 lead.
The Aggies finally got on the board two minutes later. Their captain, senior Cooper Limb, raced down the ice and forced a shot through two defenders and into the net.
Right off of the faceoff, the Aggies controlled the puck, and freshman Aaron Ward fired the puck from the blue line. His teammate Sam Lindquist deflected it in. That brought the score to 3-2 in favor of WSU.
“We kind of got lackadaisical a little bit, and they got back into the game,” said WSU sophomore Dax Hobbs. “They had a few goals that were tip-in goals. We let down our guard a little bit, and they took advantage and got back into it.”
The Aggies tied the game up just three minutes later when sophomore Rylee Orr rifled the puck toward the net and freshman Chris Videto poked the puck into the net. That tied the game at 3-3.
“Going up three there was huge, but you can’t ever count them (the Aggies) out,” Green said. “Their fans alone give them so much momentum. We just had a few seconds of a mental lapse, and they were able to capitalize on it. That is the caliber team that they are. If you aren’t playing a full game, they are going to capitalize on it.”
The Wildcats retook the lead with eight minutes left in the second period. Zach Endicott stole a puck deep in the Aggie zone and found Green with a wide-open net.
WSU scored again two minutes later on another one-man-down goal. The Wildcats cleared the puck out of their zone, and Hobbs outskated every Aggie and juked the goalie, shooting the puck between his legs.
With two minutes left in the period, Green got the hat trick with another goal, giving the Wildcats a 6-3 lead at the end of two periods.
“You could tell coming out of the break that they threw all of their energy in the first 5-7 minutes to get back into the game,” Pfleegor said. “Because they spent so much energy trying to fight back and tie it, they got tired the rest of the period.”
In the final period, the Aggies scored two quick goals, climbing back to within one to make the score 6-5. But the Wildcats boosted their lead once again when Hobbs found the net off of a rebound from a Green shot.
USU’s Limb broke away from the defense and had a one-on-one chance with the goaltender. Limb turned Atkinson around and made a backhand shot into the net, bringing the Aggies within one goal with just less than two minutes left in the game.
In an attempt to force overtime, the Aggies pulled their goalie in the final minute of the period to try, but the Wildcats played lockdown defense and escaped with the win.
“If we beat them tomorrow, there is no way that they can take that No. 2 spot from us. We would earn that,” Pfleegor said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The Saturday game will be covered in the Wednesday edition of The Signpost and on www.wsusignpost.com.