The UA Icecats find themselves in a must-win position this weekend when they host Oklahoma tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Tucson Convention Center Arena.
Icecats head coach Leo Golembiewski said if his team is to advance to the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament in March, they must beat a tough Sooner (15-4-2) team and build on a current four-game win streak.
"We'll have to be hitting on all cylinders," Golembiewski said.
Arizona (9-6-1) enters tonight's game coming off its most prolific offensive series of the season, scoring 25 goals on 137 shots against visiting DePaul.
"We had to use (the DePaul game) to get ready for Oklahoma, to work on some things," junior defenseman D.J. Pelletier said after UA's Jan. 15 16-0 win.
Golembiewski said although the 16-0 and 9-1 routs of DePaul were big for the team, maintaining focus on this Oklahoma series was of the utmost importance.
"If we're going to make any noise (on the national scene), we'll have to continue to play at that level against (Oklahoma)."
The Sooners, meanwhile, head into TCC with a spark of their own.
OU last weekend tied and beat No. 7 Weber State, in the Sooners' second win over a top-10 team in the season. The last came Nov. 19 against No. 5 Lindenwood.
For the UA, this matchup is the first in a five-week stretch of make-or-break games, including road trips to Weber State and No. 13 Arizona State.
With these important series on the horizon, health continues to be an area of concern for the Icecats.
Senior center Mickey Meehan is again unlikely for this series, due to a knee injury suffered Jan. 8 against St. Louis. Freshman center Craig Irwin skated Tuesday for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury Jan. 8, but his status for play was still unknown as of Monday.
Senior goaltender Bryan Aronchick missed last weekend's DePaul series with a broken finger, but Golembiewski was hopeful for his return for this weekend.
In Aronchick's absence, freshman and junior goaltenders Luke Edwall and Casey Leyva filled the pipes.
Edwall had his second shutout in as many games Jan. 14, while Leyva stopped 22 shots, allowing just one goal Saturday.
"We had to step up with the injuries," junior defenseman Mike Pelletier said. "We need to win out the rest of the semester."
Pelletier added that this Icecats squad is a "new team" compared to the one that dropped two late season encounters with Oklahoma 4-2 and 5-1 last February.
Junior forward Cole Dunlop, coming off his first hat trick of the season, said the recent win streak gives Arizona an extra lift heading into a crucial stretch.
"We'll try to carry over the confidence and just work hard," he said.