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After defeating every top team in the West Region and finishing with a record of 28-10-3, the Weber State University hockey team capped off its regular season by winning the Mountain West Conference Championship on Saturday at the Ice Sheet in Ogden. The Wildcats defeated Montana Tech of the University of Montana 5-4, scoring the go-ahead goal with two minutes left.
“This (hockey) program two years ago was dead, it was a disaster,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor. “Now the last two years and what they have accomplished, it’s phenomenal. I really feel happy for those seniors, especially for Giudice and for Braxton. Those two have been through a lot in the program. To go out on top as they are now, for me, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
In his final game at the Weber County Ice Sheet, senior Braxton Green went out in style, scoring two goals. Senior Robby Knott added two goals and sophomore Dax Hobbs scored the game-winning goal. Green, who has spent five years as a member of the team, said he was happy to end his WSU career as a champion.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” he said. “To win the Mountain West Championship is a goal that we had. Our ultimate goal is to win a national championship. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that this is the last game that I will be playing here. I’ve loved it here. It’s been great. I’m definitely going to miss it, that’s for sure.”
The Wildcats were aggressive early, controlling the puck in their zone for most of the first period. The Wildcats’ legs looked fresh early on, having not played a game in two weeks.
The Orediggers had a golden chance midway through the first period to get an early lead. On a two-on-one break, the puck got around the lone Wildcat defender, but WSU goalie Colby Atkinson made a stellar glove save to keep the game scoreless.
The Orediggers committed a penalty with seven minutes to go in the period, and the Wildcats capitalized right away. Just 30 seconds into the power play, junior Phill Jennrich controlled the puck on the right side of the goal. He saw an opening and rifled the puck over to Green with a wide-open net.
Not two minutes later, the Wildcats scored on another power play. This time it was Knott who found the net off of an assist from Jennrich. The Wildcats went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
“My linemates are unreal,” Knott said. “I love playing with Phill and with Snowball. We are making things happen. We are playing really good hockey, and it’s fun. It’s fun coming to the rink every day and getting better every day.”
The Wildcats continued to control the puck, but the Orediggers were able to get back into the game early in the second period with a goal of their own. With four minutes gone in the period, MT junior Duncan Browne found the net off of a pass from freshman Blaine Bokenfohr.
That goal was short-lived, however. The Wildcats brought their lead back to two goals just one minute later. Green again found the net, this time off of a pass from fellow five-year senior Josh Giudice.
The Wildcats continued to dominate the time of possession, but the Orediggers scored a goal on a power play in the final minute to go into the second intermission down 3-2.
Just six minutes into the third period, Knott and Jennrich again hooked up for a goal, giving Knott his second goal of the game.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Orediggers got a goal of their own as Bokenfohr fired the puck over Atkinson’s left shoulder for a goal. That brought the score to 4-3 in favor of WSU with 14 minutes remaining.
Two minutes later, the Orediggers were on the board again, tying the game at four all.
After nine scoreless minutes, the Wildcats retook the lead for good. On a power play, the Orediggers were about to escape unscathed until Hobbs caught a rebound right off of the MT goalie and quickly hit the nylon, giving the Wildcats a 5-4 lead.
“Montana Tech was relentless for a while,” Green said. “A couple big saves by Colby and some good plays by the D helped us. We stayed calm. There was still time left. Dax did it, again, for us.”
The Wildcats will now have three weeks off before heading to Boston, Mass., to play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division II National Tournament. The Wildcats have three scheduled games in match play, beginning March 21 against Missouri State University.