MATT HEISTAND/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior Icecat captain Kyle Neary slips through three defenders earlier this season at the Tucson Convention Center. Neary and the Icecats travel to Tempe to face ASU tonight at 8.
By Dan Komyati
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday Feb 1, 2002
As the Icecats' in-state hockey rivalry with Arizona State has unfolded over the years, UA has been fortunate enough to play the majority of the series games at home.
Tonight they find out why.
Head coach Leo Golembiewski returns to the rink where he started the Icecat program when his squad makes the trip up to Tempe's Oceanside arena tonight at 8 p.m.
Apparently, not much has changed over the last two decades.
Just as Golembiewski remembers it when the Icecats called the Tempe arena home, Oceanside is a beaten-up building where the air in the rink is cooler than the ice and the playing surface is smaller than regulation.
Throw in two teams that really dislike each other, and the weekend has all the ingredients for what could be a very interesting series.
After securing a position in the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament, the Icecats' next four games will determine their standing for the postseason tournament in May.
A slip-up in Tempe could push the No. 11 Icecats to the bottom of the 12-team bracket. They know as well as anyone that they have their work cut out for them this weekend.
The Sun Devils are the only team besides No. 1 Penn State to top the Icecats this season - a 3-2 decision in UA's first home game of the season.
Since the loss, the Icecats have dominated ASU 8-1, and 7-1, but also settled for a 2-2 tie.
Golembiewski knows that this is one weekend to expect the unexpected.
"When you have that rivalry game, you can throw the baby out with the bath water," Golembiewski said. "We have our hands full and we cannot lose our focus."
In order to extend its seven-game winning streak, the Icecats (17-3-1) are going to need contributions from all of its offensive lines. The trio of sophomore center Andrew Fredricks, junior right wing Matt Naylor and freshman left wing Shawn Brooks has provided a recent spark for the Icecats.
The lift could not have come at a better time for UA, with first-line center Kevin Meehan out for the fourth consecutive weekend.
The senior co-captain underwent arthroscopic surgery today, and if all goes well, he will be able to rejoin the Icecats for the season-ending series at home against ASU.
Meehan's linemates, senior wing Kyle Neary and junior center Dave Loftus, have managed to carry the offensive load for the majority of the season, and that was no different last weekend at Drexel when Neary scored the game-winner in overtime.
The goal was the 150th of his career - good for second all-time in Icecats history.
The co-captain looks to add to that total this weekend, but he realizes that at Oceanside, he will have much less room to operate.
"We're playing in a really small rink, so it will probably be even more physical than usual," Neary said. "With the seedings for nationals at stake, we can't afford any losses."