By Brett Fera
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA defenseman Bill Pardue controls the puck against ASU this weekend. Pardue and fellow seniors Matt Naylor and Dave Loftus said farewell to the TCC during the season's final homestand.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday February 24, 2003
Playing in front of more than 6,000 fans at the Tucson Convention Center on Saturday night, the Icecats' trio of departing seniors wanted to leave a lasting impression in their final home contest.
This might not have been exactly what they had in mind.
Seniors Matt Naylor and co-captain Bill Pardue were ejected for their part in a brawl behind the Icecats' net with just under eight minutes to go and the No. 6 Arizona Icecats (23-4) clinging to a 3-1 lead over in-state rival No. 19 Arizona State.
The scrap began when two Sun Devil players got tangled up with UA goaltender Bryan Aronchick in front of the Arizona goal. Naylor and Pardue jumped to the defense of their netminder, eventually leading to the ejection of all three players, along with ASU goaltender Kiernan Riley and forwards Weston Pongracz and Jason Clements. Riley made his way across the ice to dive on the pile andwas ejected immediately for his part.
With the ejections of both starting goaltenders, ASU junior Tim Pine and UA sophomore Rick Karasch both came off the bench cold, forced between the pipes for the final minutes after sitting for nearly the entire weekend.
After the ejections of two more Sun Devils and Icecat co-captain Dave Loftus for his part in another late-game scuffle, the buzzer finally sounded, sealing the 5-1 win for the Icecats after putting two late goals past the rusty Pine.
The win extended the Icecats' win streak to 14 games, when the team squeaked by ASU the night before, 5-4, after falling behind early 3-1.
"I'm disappointed that the ASU players pulled that so late in the game," UA head coach Leo Golembiewski said. "I like physical hockey, but that's the difference between being disciplined and not. I'm proud of our seniors though; they've had great careers here."
A choked up Naylor, trying to hold back tears after the game, said he and his fellow seniors were each glad to share the season and this experience with their teammates.
"This team has more team unity than any in the past," Loftus said. "It's kinda sad that this is our last time here. This weekend really showed me what it's like to play in front of these fans and with these guys on our team."
The team will hit the road one last time this season, flying out of Tucson on Tuesday for the ACHA national tournament in Athens, Ohio. Holding onto the tournament's fifth seed, the Icecats begin pool play on Thursday against ninth-seeded Michigan-Dearborn.
"This weekend was a great tune up for nationals and we hope to come back next week with a ring," Pardue said.