From The Daily Utah Chronicle
By Chase Mullin
While it was just the first two games of the season, the Skatin’ Utes sent a clear message to the Western Collegiate Hockey League, that they are not to be taken lightly.
The Utes men’s D1 hockey team opened up their season by sweeping WCHL Western Conference favorites and back-to-back WCHL champions, the University of Arizona Wildcats, in a two-game series on home ice this weekend.
The Utes beat Arizona 3-2 at Salt Lake City Sports Complex on Friday night, a game which the Utes scored less than a minute into on a goal from forward Ethan Light. Following the initial goal, the game would remain close through three periods with Utah coming out on top.
Saturday’s game, however, was a different story, as the Utes beat Arizona in quite convincing fashion. Looking for revenge, Arizona came out of the gates firing, as they capitalized on an early Utes penalty, scoring a power-play goal to go ahead 1-0 just 1:44 into the game.
Notably, past the eight minute mark of the first period, the Wildcats had out-shot the Utes 12-3. However, thanks to several key saves from Utes goaltender Landon Anderson, who finished the game with an impressive 30-save performance, kept the game from getting out of hand early on.
“Our team made it really easy on me,” Anderson said. “A lot of shots were coming from outside but our guys did a great job of making sure there weren’t many screens to fight with and whenever there was a rebound they cleared it away.”
On just the Utes’ fourth shot of the game, forward Beau Slater slipped the puck past the Arizona net-minder to tie the game 1-1. From that point on, the momentum clearly shifted in the Utes’ favor.
A little over three minutes after the Utes’ equalizing goal, the Utes tallied again on a wrap-around goal from forward Landon Langenbrunner. Shortly thereafter, Utes forward Karsen Wight followed suit with a goal to give Utah a two-goal advantage. By the end of the first period, the Utes had taken control of the game, outshooting the Wildcats 16-15 after 20 minutes of play.
This was quite a physical, chippy game, as both teams took their fair share of penalties. Even though the Wildcats controlled most of the possession at the beginning of the second period, the Utes once again took back momentum with an impressive five on three penalty kill.
Killing penalties proved to be a trend for the Utes penalty kill unit throughout the night, as aside from the first goal of the game, the Utes killed every penalty they faced.
Impressively, The Utes scored again in the second period on a goal from forward Benjamin Mickel, and before fans had even sat back down, forward Ethan Light retrieved a puck from the corner of the offensive zone which he proceeded to throw on net. Initially, Light’s shot appeared to go in, causing everyone on the ice to pause and wait for a signal from the referees that never came. While everyone was standing still, defenseman Steven Pawlow quickly picked up the puck and scored. Since the play was never called dead, Pawlow’s goal, which clearly went in, counted, and essentially put the final nail in the Wildcat’s coffin as the Utes were up 5-1.
Aside from a couple more penalty kills by the Utes, the third period was rather uneventful and the Utes ended up beating the Wildcats in convincing fashion, 5-1.
“For the last couple seasons a lot of people have been counting us out, but I think this was definitely a statement weekend for us,” Anderson stated after the game.
Overall, Saturday’s game was a clear statement by the Utes as the Arizona Wildcats were widely accepted as one of the toughest teams in the WCHL. The Utes will look to carry their momentum into next weekend as they travel to Las Vegas to play rival UNLV.
(Originally published at https://dailyutahchronicle.com/2021/10/03/utah-mens-hockey-arizona/)