Arizona Daily Wildcat
Team at 16-1 halfway through the year
The UA Icecats are in the midst of a 15-game winning streak heading into the semester break and appear poised to make a strong run at the American Collegiate Hockey Association championships in March. Here's how the Arizona Daily Wildcat rates the Icecats, position-by-position, so far this season:
There's not many bad things to say about the UA Icecats so far this season. Arizona is averaging 7.7 goals a game this year and has not had much trouble finding the back of the net.
Leading the way for the Icecats are two of the three senior co-captains, forwards Paul Dorn and Marc Harris.
Dorn has 21 goals so far this year and Harris has 23. Dorn also has 23 assists, while Harris has added 28.
Offensive production has not been a problem for the Icecats. Senior forward Ed Carfora and junior forward Mike Graves both have 13 goals. Graves is second on the team with 24 assists.
"At the start of the year it seemed we were one-dimensional, with Harris, Dorn and Graves scoring most of the goals," Carfora said. "As the semester progressed, the other two lines stepped up and started scoring. We look good. The ASU weekend we had a bunch of different goal scorers. We've got to stay focused - that's the main thing."
A handful of Icecats have been chipping in with goals so far this season - forwards Kyle McNeilance (eight goals, 10 assists), Kyle Neary (six goals, six assists) and Joe Boysen (nine goals, 10 assists) have all become major contributors to a team that relied primarily on Dorn and Harris in the past.
A goaltender is only as good as his defensemen.
One reason Arizona is only surrendering 1.47 goals a game is because of good defensive pressure and few mistakes.
The Icecats have surrendered more than two goals only twice this season. Led by juniors Pavel Jandura, Tom Wood, John Saunders, Jason Royce, Dave Galardini and senior co-captain Ty Brush, the Icecats defense is solid.
Young talent - sophomores Bill Pardue, Steffan Thomasson and freshman Andrew Fredericks - add to the Icecats depth at defense.
The defense rarely breaks down, aggressively protecting goalie Jason Morgan and the Icecats zone.
"I think our defense has done really well," Wood said. "Since I've been here, it's the best defense we've had."
Wood said the only trait that separates the UA defense from perfection is a lack of physical play.
"I think we need to play the body a little bit more," Wood said. "We need to work on our breaking the puck out, we need to do it cleaner. Our transitions we need to work on. I think when the going gets tough our defense will be there."
Junior goalie Jason Morgan has been outstanding so far this season, saving 318 of 341 shots for a .932 save percentage.
Morgan has not allowed more than three goals in a single game and has recorded three shutouts. Most importantly, the junior has come up big in the few games where the Icecats have had trouble scoring.
In a 1-0 victory against Navy, Morgan turned away all 17 shots he faced, helping the Icecats secure the victory.
"We've had a pretty good year so far defensively," Morgan said. "We've put up good numbers. That's mostly due to our defense, I think. They're pretty much making me look good."
Though Morgan has been solid this year, the junior said he thinks he can do better.
"One thing I need to improve on myself is staying in the game 60 minutes when we're playing lower level teams," he said. "Your head tends to wander."
Backup goaltender Brian Schilling has provided UA head coach Leo Golembiewski with a solid replacement for Morgan.
In five games, Schilling has turned away 57 of the 59 shots he has faced.
Solid goaltending is one reason the Icecats could go far in March at the ACHA championships.
The coaching so far has been outstanding. Golembiewski is now in his 22nd season of coaching and may have his best chance in years to advance to the national championships.
An ACHA title would be the Icecats' first national championship since 1985.
"He gives us a lot of freedom, he refers to himself as more old school" Brush said. "He's had associations with great coaches such as Scotty Bowman. Before the game he'll give us what we can expect from the teams. He also lets us co-captains fire the guys up."
Players say that this year's coaching staff has excelled at preparing the team between games. After a close 1-0 victory against Navy, Golembiewski made line changes and fired up his team. Arizona responded with a 14-2 defeat of the Midshipmen the following night.
"He's definitely a good motivator in the locker room" McNeilance said. "He puts a lot of pressure on us, we've got a lot of depth on the team, so there's always a lot of pressure as far as keeping your spot in the line up. It seems like we're always striving to be better than where we are."
Chris Suffecool can be reached at email@example.com.