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Icecats finish 6th in ACHA tournament

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore Mickey Meehan skates around an ASU defender. The Icecats finished the season with two straight losses in the ACHA national tournament and finished sixth overall.
By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday March 6, 2003

Penn State skates to fourth straight national title, UA loses two of three

After riding a 14-game win streak into the national tournament, the Arizona Icecats had their sights on finishing the season on top.

However, the red-hot Icecats cooled down in a hurry and ended up finishing sixth at the ACHA National Tournament last weekend.

Tournament Results

1. Penn State
2. Ohio
3. Illinois
4. Delaware
5. Minot State
6. Arizona
7. Eastern Mich.
8. St. Louis
- Iowa State
- Drexel
- Towson
- Mich.-Dearborn

The 30-game, four-month schedule concluded with two losses, leading the Wildcats to a sixth-place finish overall. Despite starting the season 3-3, the team came into the tournament with high expectations after winning 20 of its last 21 games during a period of nearly three and a half months.

"For a team with only three seniors, just going to the tournament was great, let alone making the elite eight," UA head coach Leo Golembiewski said. "We can't let not getting the final four put a damper on a terrific season."

The Icecats won their first pool game against No. 9 Michigan-Dearborn, 8-2, paced by four powerplay goals. Senior co-captain Bill Pardue notched four assists while sophomores Shaun Brooks and Mickey Meehan tallied two goals each.

The Icecats were shut out in their second effort, 4-0, by No. 4 Ohio, the tournament's host.

Golembiewski said playing against the Bobcats on their home ice made it difficult for the UA offense to get on track.

"The Ohio game pretty much set the tone for the entire tournament for us," Golembiewski said. "Losing to them in their home rink was tough. It was one of the worst games we played all year. "The Icecats squared off against No. 3 Minot State in the fifth place game on Saturday, but fell 9-6. UA jumped ahead early, leading 4-1 midway through the second, but couldn't hold on for the win.

Golembiewski said despite the high number of goals allowed, he didn't fault his team for the performance.

"Fifth and seventh place games are useless," Golembiewski said. "It's tough to get back up for a game like that after what happened against Ohio."

Golembiewski was pleased with the performance of senior co-captain Dave Loftus against Minot State. Loftus, who along with Pardue and fellow senior Matt Naylor was playing in his final game as an Icecat, became the first UA player to record a hat trick in a National Tournament game.

Home ice advantage proved to be worthwhile for Ohio, as the Bobcats used it to catapult them into the championship game, but wasn't enough to help claim the title.

Second seed Penn State took the championship back home to University Park for the fourth straight season. The Icers downed No. 7 Iowa State and No. 11 Eastern Michigan in pool play before posting a shutout against Ohio, 5-0, in the championship game.

Penn State survived a scare early in the tournament against Iowa State, overcoming a 2-0 deficit late in the third period and winning 3-2 in overtime.

Top seed Illinois was upset by Ohio in the semifinals, 4-1, and finished in third overall after dropping No. 6 Delaware, 3-2, in the consolation game.

The Icecats will hold their annual awards banquet on Sunday, April 13. Ticket information and the location of the event are expected to be released within the next few days.

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