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Icecats rock ASU in Royal Rumble

By Dan Komyati
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday Feb. 25, 2002

With the amount of fans in the Tucson Convention Center this weekend, you might have thought WWF SmackDown! made an early return to Tucson.

Instead, the packed house was rocking for the Icecats' final two home victories of the season - 7-6 and 6-4 - against hated rival Arizona State.

As six seniors took the ice for the final time at the "Madhouse on Main Street," the Icecats played in front of an extremely rare TCC sell-out crowd Saturday night in their final tune-up for Wednesday's opening game of the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament.

With several family members in attendance, senior forward Kyle Neary finished his home career in style in the 6-4 win.

"Mr. Saturday Night" recorded a hat trick and finished the regular season with a team-leading 39 goals.

The senior co-captain secured the victory with a breakaway goal late in the third period that was followed with hats littering the ice.

"It was pretty great to come out and have a hat trick in my last game here with the type of crowd we had," Neary said. "There's always little things you can work on, but I definitely think we're where we want to be (for nationals)."

After Neary scored the game's first goal, freshman forward Mickey Meehan stole a puck deep in the ASU zone and fed freshman forward Nick Woods, who scored for a 2-0 lead.

Returning after an 11-game absence due to a knee injury, senior co-captain Kevin Meehan added a goal to extend the Icecats' lead to 3-0 midway through the second period.

After play was stopped with 17:21 remaining in the third period - and a wedding proposal was accepted within the TCC crowd - UA sophomore forward Andrew Fredericks converted on a penalty shot that was awarded when an ASU player covered the puck in their crease.

The goal proved to be the game-winner as the Sun Devils managed to get within 5-4 but could never tie the home team in a physical third period.

Kevin Meehan was encouraged by his team's effort and said his injury was not the only thing he had to overcome to play this weekend.

"The knee doesn't bother me as much, but I've had the flu so I was sucking wind a little," he said.

Things got off to an ominous start for the home team on Friday night.

In front of another near-capacity crowd, the Sun Devils jumped out to a surprising 5-1 lead in the second period against the No.11 Icecats.

What followed was described by Golembiewski as the most impressive period of Icecats hockey in his two decades as head coach.

Neary started the turnaround with one of his two goals on the night, followed by two goals from Mickey Meehan as well as one from junior forward Dave Loftus that tied the game at 5-5.

Junior forward Matt Naylor then put the Icecats ahead by one, and Woods added the eventual game-winner midway through the third period.

"Fifteen minutes of that second period was the best period of hockey I've seen in my 23 years of coaching at Arizona," Golembiewski said of the turnaround. "It was a microcosm of who (the seniors) are.

"Players come and go, but these six seniors are gonna be very hard to replace in a lot of ways."

The head coach said this year's squad differs from those in years past in one significant way.

"In regards of what we're gonna do in nationals, we're gonna leave it out on the ice," Golmbiewski said. "I can't say that about any of the teams for the last four years. I'm very proud of this team."


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