By Larry Mullenix
Arizona Daily Wildcat
If the Arizona club hockey team wanted an easy road to its second national championship, it's not going to get it.
With a first round loss to two-time defending champion North Dakota State, the Icecats have put themselves in a hole that may be too deep to dig out of.
The Icecats lost a game Wednesday night that until the 7:11 point of the game was theirs to win.
With the score 2-1 in favor of Arizona, the Bison's Mike Hutter let a shot go just inside the blue line that Dennis Hands failed to corral, letting it bounce out of his glove and into the net to knot the score and effectively break the Icecats' back.
"That goal cannot go in during tournament play," said UA head coach Leo Golembiewski.
That goal ended the momentum that Arizona had tentatively built up to that point.
The first period ended scoreless, a trend that has taken hold of the Icecats. UA has not scored a first-period goal in its last three games.
North Dakota State's Derek Fredrickson scored 45 seconds into the second period on a rebound goal that resulted from a slapshot by the Bison's Scott Nargo. The Icecats then rebounded by scoring one of their own.
Just over two minutes later Arizona's Steve Hutchings scored when he skated around two North Dakota State defenders and poked the puck past Bison goaltender Tod Wallace into the upper corner of the net.
Senior defenseman Ricky Pope put the Icecats ahead with a slapshot just outside of the left face-off circle that went through Wallace.
The Icecats played tentatively in the third period, apparently trying to just get through the period maintaining the lead.
At the 13:16 mark of the third, the game was finally taken out of Arizona's hands when Greg Fitzpatrick scored North Dakota State's second rebound goal of the game, once again off Hands.
The Icecats weren't able to deal well with the idea of being behind at the end of a game and could not mount another attack against North Dakota State.
The Bisons sealed the game up mid
with just under three minutes left in the game on a score by Pete Stasiuk to make it 4-2.
"The second goal was the game," Golembiewski said. "We got outworked for three periods and that just can't happen at your place."
The story behind the game was Wallace. He made 23 saves and was truly dominating in one-on-one situations. The Icecats helped him by missing six or seven open nets in crucial spots of the game.
The inability to put the puck in the open net is what effectively killed all hopes for an Icecat victory.
"We were tight from the beginning and I knew that we were going to have some problems with execution all night," Golembiewski said. "We just didn't get it done in shooting or passing."
Wallace's comments on his goaltending counterpart were anything but flattering.
"Hands' head is a mess," Wallace said. "Once we tied the score I knew he was done."
Said Golembiewski: "North Dakota is a real good tournament team. Naturally, I really feel a letdown. Our backs are against the wall now and we need a little help to go anywhere."
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Yesterday, North Dakota State and Ohio played to a 4-4 tie.
Other scores from Wednesday: Ohio 8, Michigan Dearborn 2; Iowa State 8, Eastern Michigan 7 (overtime); Penn State 8, Illinois 1.
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