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Traveling to the Midwest to face the fourth-ranked Division 1 team in the nation over the weekend, the Weber State University men’s hockey team stayed competitive early but wore down as the game went on. The Wildcats lost to the University of Oklahoma 12-2 on Friday and 15-0 on Saturday.
“All the players we had here, every one of them played their hearts out from beginning to end,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor. “They all worked, they didn’t quit, they didn’t give up, they stayed focused, they stayed positive.”
The Sooners controlled the puck from the start. They outshot the Wildcats 31-8 in the opening period, and quickly got out to a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats finally got on the board with four minutes left in the first period. The Sooners were once again a man short, and the Wildcats were able to capitalize on the one-man advantage. The Wildcats worked the puck around the net until senior Curtis Snowball flung the puck to sophomore Dax Hobbs, who found the back of the net. That brought the OU lead to 3-1.
“Braxton and I had a few chances on odd-man rushes, and we had one where we caught a break,” Hobbs said. “I wasn’t able to put it in the first couple times, but Snowball finally created a 2-on-1 and he made a great pass. I was lucky enough to put it in. Against a team like that, you have to be able to score on every opportunity you get.”
Both teams had more chances in the final minutes of the first period, but the score remained the same going into the first break.
The Sooners continued to control the puck early in the second period. In the second minute of the period, OU had a breakaway 2-on-1, and sophomore Mason Miller slid the puck around the defender to sophomore Bryce Johnson.
Five minutes later, Johnson found the net once again on a broken play to give the Sooners a 5-1 lead.
The Wildcats cut the lead back to three midway through the second period. The Wildcats stole a pass from the Sooners and had a 3-on-1 breakaway. The Sooner goalie knocked aside the first shot, but sophomore Landon Aylor caught the rebound and got the goal.
The Sooners added two late goals to take their lead to 7-2 at the end of the second period.
OU continued the onslaught in the third period, getting a quick goal to push its lead to six. Despite the deficit, the Wildcats continued to skate hard and take shots wherever they could get them, but to no avail. The Sooners added four late goals to win the game by 10.
“The 12-2 loss, if you look at it on paper, it looks like you got absolutely smashed,” Hobbs said. “That’s probably the case in the last period. But this is the No. 4-ranked Division 1 team in the nation. We were playing them the first period and a half with two lines and we were hanging with them. They are fast and physical.”
Team captain Braxton Green went down with six minutes left in the game Friday, and his presence was missed in both games. The Wildcats struggled without him in the lineup.
“It’s one thing when you are playing with a short bench against a team at your level, but it’s another when you are playing a D1 team,” Pfleegor said. “With our whole team here, there is no doubt in my mind that we could compete with these guys.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Wildcats fell behind early, being outscored 7-0 in the first period. The Wildcats continued to struggle even after switching out their goaltender in the second period.
The final period was the best of the weekend for WSU. The Wildcats gave up just three goals. They started out strong in the period, and WSU’s goaltender blocked everything coming his way. But the Wildcats, who ran two lines both Friday and Saturday, ran out of gas, and the Sooners capitalized late in the period.
“By the third period, you want to go hard, but your body physically can’t do it,” Hobbs said. “You can’t beat a team like that with two lines. I was proud of the 12 kids that we had that played. Everybody gave it their all until the end. But against that high caliber of a team, you can’t really pull off a win with 12 guys.”
The Wildcats will finish up the regular season Sunday at the Ice Sheet versus Montana Tech of the University of Montana. The puck will drop at 10:30 a.m.