The Arizona Wildcats Ice Hockey team is set to begin their 2017-2018 season this weekend as they host in-state rivals, Grand Canyon and Arizona State, at the Tucson Convention Center on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Last season, the Wildcats finished 14-14-2-2, narrowly missing the ACHA Division I National Tournament. Most people will remember the final weekend, in which the Wildcats swept Arizona State for the first time in nearly a decade (in both overtime and shootout fashions).
Now, Arizona is set to begin their fourth season under Chad Berman. Here are some of the things that you need to know about heading into opening weekend.
There are several notable departures from last season’s Wildcats. The first notable departure from the team is former captain, Dylan Carter. Carter was a significant contributor to the Wildcats, scoring 27 points (10 of them being goals) in 33 games.
With Carter’s production and leadership gone, the Wildcats named senior Orion Olsen to be the team captain for the upcoming season.
Other departures include Brian “Toppie” Hogan, John Hogan, and Garret Patrick.
Toppie Hogan was the Wildcats’ top scorer last season, setting the Wildcat points record at 64. Because of the impact they had on the team, Toppie and his brother John Hogan were the de-facto faces of the UA Hockey program.
Toppie is now retired from hockey and is a member of the UA golf team as a graduate student. Meanwhile, John has returned to the UA hockey team as an assistant coach.
Patrick was one of the Wildcats’ go-to goaltenders last season. In his 20 starts last season, Patrick recorded a 3.92 goals-against-average and a .887 save percentage.
With the departure of Patrick from the Wildcat hockey program, Arizona will likely turn to returning goaltender Austin Wilson, who was not far behind Patrick on stat sheet last season.
Top three returning players
Orion Olsen (F): As mentioned above, Olsen is returning not only returning to the Wildcats this season, he will be sporting the “C” patch on his sweater, upgrading from the “A” following Carter’s departure from the team.
Olsen was named captain about a week before team tryouts began, which UA Hockey Media Director Tim Gassen pointed out is an unusual move.
“Coach Berman really wanted to establish early, a new culture... a team-oriented culture” Gassen said, “and I think (naming Olsen captain) was a smart move because he was showing his leadership.”
Manny Rowe (D): You may know Manny Rowe as “the guy with the incredible flow.” You may also know him as the guy who scored the tying goal against ASU in the final 30 seconds of the third period on Senior Night, allowing the Wildcats to force overtime and win in the shootout.
Whatever you call Rowe, know he will be returning to the Wildcats for another year, becoming a top leader among Wildcat defensemen.
“Manny is a very athletic defenseman,” Gassen said, “he knows how to push the puck and has a very defensive focus that the coach wants, and now he’s a year older.”
Gassen pointed out that Rowe was also the Rookie of the Year award recipient for the Wildcats last season.
“He’s definitely going to be an all-star at the ACHA level,” Gassen said.
Austin Wilson (G): With Garret Patrick gone, the goaltender position has fallen to Wilson. Wilson has a lot of expectations this year with the likelihood of being named the starting goaltender. However, this year, coach Berman is looking to add more competition.
This offseason, he added some depth in transfer students Nolan Bivolcic and Anthony Ciurro. This adds pressure for Wilson to play at a much higher level than when he was behind Patrick, knowing there are two goaltenders ready to take his spot if he doesn’t.
Other headlines to follow
- Coach Berman flexed his recruiting muscles once again this season, adding 12 new forwards, one new defenseman and two new goaltenders (mentioned above).
- Among Berman’s 2017 recruiting class are at least three D-III NCAA Transfers
- The Wildcats are going full-on “new look” this season, unveiling their new uniforms at their annual media day on Thursday.
- At the time of this writing, the Wildcats are ranked No. 19 nationally in the ACHA M1 Polls.
- Following the Wildcats opening weekend, the team will not return to the TCC until Oct. 26, when they face the defending ACHA Champions, University of Central Oklahoma.
- TCC is getting an organist! The Wildcats announced last week that Michael Davis will be the organist for the games at the TCC this season (because nothing says hockey like the good ol’ fashioned organ). According to ArizonaWildcatHockey.org, Davis was the organist for the then-named “Arizona IceCats” during the 1980’s and 1990’s.