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Icecats roll to weekend sweep over Saint Louis

By Dan Komyati
Monday December 3, 2001

It wasn't supposed to be this easy.

Playing host to a higher-ranked opponent for the first time this season, the Icecats' youth and inexperience was supposed to show against a tough Saint Louis squad this weekend.

Yet the two-game series looked nothing different from Arizona's other dominant efforts this season as the Icecats cruised 6-2 Friday and 5-1 Saturday at the Tucson Convention Center.

The No. 15 Icecats are making sure the rest of the American Collegiate Hockey Association has not forgotten about them after UA extended its winning streak to seven games.

With rival Arizona State and defending national champion and top-ranked Penn State looming in the next two weekend series, head coach Leo Golembiewski said he could not have asked for a better start to the pivotal six-game stretch.

"We're trying to see where we're at. These (next six games) are our chance to find what kind of club we have," said Golembiewski. "We're really pleased with our effort this weekend."

The Icecats received an early boost on Friday night when freshman left wing Mike Smith beat Saint Louis standout goalie Casey Martin for a 1-0 first-period lead. After allowing a Saint Louis power-play goal in the second, junior Dave Loftus and sophomore Braden Koprivica answered with back-to-back goals to put UA in control of the contest.

When the Billikens closed within a goal in the third period, junior Bill Pardue again set up Koprivica as the Icecats regained their two-goal advantage. Loftus scored an empty net goal, and added insult to injury by completing his hat trick with Saint Louis' goalie back in the net during the games final seconds.

The Icecats outshot the Billikens 44-24, as freshman goalie Bryan Aronchick continued to make big saves and earn another victory.

Guarding against a possible letdown, an inspired UA squad came out flying during the opening period on Saturday, pounding Saint Louis with four goals on 15 shots.

After senior defenseman Pavel Jandura scored in the game's opening minutes, the Icecats continued to crash the net and out-work SLU to set the tone for the remainder of the game.

The effort saw a continued emergence of the Icecats' second offensive line, as Koprivica, freshman Mickey Meehan and junior Matt Naylor contributed two of the Icecats' four opening-period goals.

The highlight of a flashy opening period for the Icecats featured Naylor picking the pocket of a Billiken defenseman before beating him into the offensive zone before setting up Koprivica for a one-timer and a 3-0 Icecats lead.

The trio contributed four goals and four assists during the weekend, and provided the Icecats with their most balanced offensive attack of the season.

Not to be outdone by his younger brother or his linemates, senior co-captain Kevin Meehan scored the first of his two goals on a breakaway during the closing minutes of the first period, after a feed from Loftus sprung him into the Saint Louis zone.

After the game, Kevin was quick to praise the efforts of some of the younger Icecats.

"That second line did a terrific job," Kevin Meehan said. "At the beginning of the year, that was a real problem for us, but the last couple of weekends they've been working real hard and putting the puck in the net for us."

The Icecats will have to continue to out-work their opposition as ASU returns to Tucson next weekend - the only team to send the Icecats (9-1) home with a defeat this season.

While UA continues to try and earn the respect of ACHA pollsters - perhaps lost during what many critics felt would be a rebuilding year - this weekend proved once again that victories against the Icecats in Tucson are few and far between.

"We have a real solid team and when we come out to play we can play with anybody," said Kevin Meehan. "These are big wins for us hopefully it will carry on to next weekend."


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