February 7, 2016
South Lake Tahoe, CA
The University of Utah Skatin’ Utes traveled to South Lake Tahoe over the weekend for the 2016 PAC-8 Championship Tournament and came back to Salt Lake City with another PAC-8 Championship.
The Utes were the second seed in this year’s tournament which featured the top six teams in the Pacific 8 Hockey Conference battling in a single-elimination tournament.
With a bye into the semifinals, the Utes waited to find out who their first opponent would be as the Washington Huskies battled the Oregon Ducks and the USC Trojans took on the Washington State Cougars in the two first round games. USC and Washington won those games so the Utes were paired up with Washington in the semifinals, who were the highest seed to win in the first round.
In the semifinal matchup, the score remained at 0-0 through the first 13 minutes until David Barnes sent the puck down the ice on a penalty kill that took a fortuitous bounce past Washington’s goaltender and into the net to give the Utes a 1-0 lead. The Utes would not look back after that moment as the Utes put up 11 goals to cruise to a 11-4 victory over Washington and punch their ticket to the PAC-8 Championship Game.
With the win the Utes advanced to the championship game for the fifth straight time in their five years in the conference. The Utes outshot the Huskies 62-27 in the game as Julian Cronan had a hat trick in the game and Devan Betts picked up his 12th win of the season in goal, tallying 23 saves.
On Sunday the Utes took on the USC Trojans in the championship game as USC beat California 3-1 in the other semifinal to reach the final for the first time since 2010. This time the Utes wasted no time scoring as Carl Bombardier scored with 17:06 left in the first period to give Utah a 1-0 lead. Erik Soderlund would add another goal for Utah in the first period and the Utes would hold a 2-0 lead after the first twenty minutes.
In the second period Michael Ahern and Caden Ottley would put two more goals on the board for the Utes as they took a 4-1 lead into the third period as the Utes looked well on their way to another championship. USC would make it interesting down the stretch thanks to some penalties on Utah but Brett Myer would add an insurance goal as the Utes won the game 5-3 and secured their third PAC 8 Championship.
The Utes dominated the game, outshooting the Trojans 56-30 in the game to win back to back PAC-8 titles for the first time in school history. It’s also the first time a team form the PAC-8 has won back to back titles since Washington won two in a row in 2011 and 2012. The third championship for Utah also ties them for second all-time in the PAC-8 Conference for tournament titles, along with Oregon. They both still trail USC who has eight career conference titles.
The Utes wrap up the regular season this weekend as they head up to Idaho to take on #10 Boise State on Friday night, with the team closing out their home schedule with Senior Night against Boise State on Saturday night.