By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday December 6, 2002
The No. 6 Arizona Icecats (8-3) return to action tonight against No. 18 Arizona State (8-7-1), in the second week of the team's four-weekend home stand.
The puck drops tonight and tomorrow at 7:30, at the Tucson Convention Center.
TCC is expected to be a packed house for both games of the intrastate rivalry, as the opening weekend drew over 4,500 fans for both games. Near the end of last season, the Icecats and Sun Devils played a two-game set at TCC in front of sellout crowds of over 7,100 fans each, forcing TCC officials to turn away hundreds of fans.
UA took both games against ASU back on its opening home stand, walloping the Sun Devils 10-2 on Oct. 25 before pulling out a close victory the next night, 5-4.
Dating back to October of last season, the Icecats are currently on a nine-game unbeaten streak against ASU, garnering eight wins and one tie during that span.
"We know that we haven't lost to them in a while, and we don't want to be a part of the group that does," senior forward Matt Naylor said. "It's never good to go to U of A and lose to ASU. We're expected to beat them, and we expect it of ourselves, too."
Despite the Icecats' recent string, the rivalry has still managed to bring out a multitude of exciting games between the squads. Eight of the last 10 contests have been settled by two goals or less, including a 2-2 tie on Dec. 8, at the Tucson Convention Center.
The Icecats are currently riding a five-game win streak, during which they have outscored opponents 49-8. Last time out, he Icecats manhandled DePaul on Nov. 22 and Nov. 23, 14-1 and 16-2.
After experimenting with five lines, while also letting all four goaltenders see action against the visiting Blue Demons, the Icecats will return to normalcy against ASU, with starting sophomore goaltender Bryan Aronchick back between the pipes.
Aronchick played just 30 minutes, earning a victory against DePaul, allowing backups Casey Leyva, Rick Karasch, and Nik Rieser to see valuable playing time. Karasch earned the team's other win in his first career start in net on Saturday, playing a period and a half.
Junior forward Andrew Fredricks said he hopes to duplicate the success he had back in October, when he tallied four goals and an assist in the season opener against ASU. It was the first hat trick of his Icecat career.
"We've worked pretty hard in practice, which made up for having a week off," Fredricks said. "Obviously they always come in and play us hard, but all our guys are really up for this weekend and look forward to getting out on the ice."
Fredricks expects for this weekend's series to be as physical as the last one as well.
"There is a little bad blood between us right now," Fredricks said. "I expect it to be a pretty physical weekend."
Late in the third period of the Icecats' 10-2 win on Oct. 25, ASU goalie Dan Woog instigated a massive brawl behind the ASU net, earning himself a game misconduct. In all, three Icecats and three Sun Devils were ejected for fighting.
After starting the season 5-1 and being ranked as high as eighth prior to their first trip to Tucson, ASU has sputtered as of late, going just 3-6-1 since. The Sun Devils fell to No. 18 in the latest ACHA rankings, released last week, while the Icecats maintained their post at No. 6.
Naylor says the team has taken advantage of the time off, and is ready to get back to work this weekend.
"We spent some time refining everything that we needed to work on," Naylor said. "We laid out a game plan as to what we need to do to win out the rest of the year, and we look stronger than ever right now. It's about time to get back out there."