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Three weeks removed from its Mountain West Conference tournament victory, the Weber State University hockey team will return to the ice to participate in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II National Tournament. The Wildcats will face three teams Friday, Saturday and Sunday to determine who will move on to the final rounds Monday and Tuesday.
“We have a golden opportunity here,” said WSU head coach Joe Pfleegor. “Everybody is healthy. Everybody is playing well. Their attitudes are positive. They are having fun. And if you can take those variables and take them to nationals, anything can happen. When you go to a national tournament like that, it’s really anybody’s game.”
To get to the final two rounds, the Wildcats will likely need to win all three of their preliminary matches. However, one loss doesn’t completely knock them out of the tournament. This is the second-straight year that WSU has made the national tournament.
“This year, this has definitely put Weber on the map,” said WSU senior Braxton Green. “Over the past few years, Weber has been the team that everybody expects to beat. Us being No. 1 in the West and now being the No. 1 team in the Mountain West, it pretty much confirms what we’ve believed the whole time: We are going to win a national championship.”
The Wildcats will face fourth-seeded Missouri State University on Friday at 1 p.m. to begin their bracket play. They will then face third-ranked Pennsylvania State University on Saturday at 1:10 p.m. and second-ranked Northeastern University on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. The team with the highest point total after three games will advance to the semifinal game Monday.
“The guys are ready to go; everyone is clicking,” said WSU senior Robby Knott. “You can see team unity out there. It does a lot for our team for next year too. It gives us a standard of excellence for next year, especially at nationals. It’s a good momentum-builder.”
The Wildcats have been practicing for the last three weeks, but they know a little rust can creep in if they are not careful.
“There is a big difference between practice and a game,” Green said. “We need to be ready to go. Even one period of a lapse could cost us a game at nationals. We are going to have to play three good games in brackets and go from there.”
Pfleegor said he was overjoyed to see his team win the MWC Championship, and that the win could propel the team to be even hungrier for next step. The team’s goal from the beginning of the season was to win the national championship.
“The nice thing is not only to win a championship, but you can build on this,” said Pfleegor after the MWC Championship game. “It gives the guys a little bit of a taste of it. This is what it feels like to get the small trophy. What is it going to be like when we get the big trophy?”
The Wildcats will enter the tournament with a lot of momentum, having won the majority of their games during the second part of the season. But the team doesn’t expect to coast to the semifinals.
“The team that shows up is going to win a national championship,” Pfleegor said. “Right now, we are going in the right direction.”
All tournament games can be streamed live at www.fasthockey.com.