The No. 33 Ice Bears traveled to Arizona this weekend to take on ranked opponents Arizona and Arizona State in a stretch of games that could have put them back into contention to make the national tournament.
The Ice Bears lost all three games, continuing a skid that has continued since December.
The first game was Thursday, Jan. 16, against No. 19 Arizona State. ASU scored in the 10th minute, but a goal by senior defenseman Sam Hiserodt in the final minute of the first period left the game tied 1-1 at intermission.
The second period started with little action — until the Sun Devils scored five goals in 10 minutes.
ASU added three more goals in the third and won 8-1.
Senior goaltender Brady Griffin was pulled after the fifth ASU goal. Junior Bailey Stephens entered to finish the second period, and senior Brendan Shuck played the third period in order to rest Stephens, who started the next night.
“Thursday was not an 8-1 game,” Ice Bears head coach Jeremy Law said. “We had bad puck luck — missed three or four breakaways. If you want to say there is hockey gods — they weren’t on our side that night.”
The second game was on Friday night against No. 7 Arizona. Due to a combination of injuries and suspensions, the Wildcats only had 15 skaters while the Ice Bears had 18 — a normal amount for a hockey team to have.
The Wildcats took an early lead — they scored 47 seconds into the game. A defensive-zone breakdown 10 minutes later gave the Wildcats another goal.
Senior center Josh Bell appeared to score close to the end of the second period, but a whistle was blown before the puck went into the net.
Sophomore winger Hunter Cooley scored at the end of the second period, and the score was 3-1 after the second period.
Arizona added a fourth goal off of an odd deflection one minute into the third period.
The Ice Bears tried to mount a comeback. Freshman forward Henrik Lohman and junior winger Nikita Salnikov both scored on breakaways in the final five minutes.
The Ice Bears were unable to score with Stephens pulled for an extra skater, and the game ended 4-3.
“Friday night we played pretty well — we could’ve won that game, ” Law said.
By the time the first period of the game on Saturday night ended, Arizona was up 5-0 and Arizona forward Anthony Cusanelli had a hat trick.
Arizona added four more goals in the final two periods to make the final score 9-0.
Law said this weekend was another frustrating weekend in a string of bad ones — the last time the Ice Bears won a game in regulation was Nov. 16 against Arizona State.
“We’re in a slump,” Law said. “It could go two ways — you’re frustrated and you pick up and play better, or you — I don’t know what the right word is — be frustrated and play worse. We played worse. We couldn’t buy a goal this weekend.”
Law said the Ice Bears have an outside chance to make the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s national tournament, but it will probably require the team winning all 14 of their final games.
“We’re not the only team in the world to go into a slump,” Law said. “I’m not used to it as a coach — I’ve never coached a sub-500 team. (Assistant coach Brendan McClew) and I have to find a way to motivate these guys and get things turned around.”
The Ice Bears do not have a game this coming week, but they have a two-game series at home against McKendree University on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.