PREVIEW: 2016 Wasatch Cup
January 28, 2016
Salt Lake City, UT
The bragging rights for the best college hockey team in the state of Utah are back up for grabs this weekend as the 2nd Annual Wasatch Cup takes place this Friday and Saturday in Ogden, UT.
The Utes are the defending champions after winning last year’s event in a tournament that saw two games go to multiple overtimes and every game being decided by three goals or less.
Utah was able to beat BYU 7-4 in the semifinals in Salt Lake City and continued to beat Utah State in triple overtime 2-1 in the Championship Game last year to win the inaugural Wasatch Cup. Now the Utes will look to make more history as the first repeat champions.
The matchups for this year’s semifinals are the same as last year, with Utah taking on BYU and Weber State taking on Utah State on Friday. The losers of each semifinal will play in the consolation game on Saturday and the winners will battle for the second Wasatch Cup.
All four teams this year come into the Wasatch Cup with an ACHA West Division ranking, marking the first time that’s happened in the tournament. Only three teams were ranked going into last year’s tournament. Like last year, all of the teams are on different paths heading into the tournament. Two teams are neck and neck for an automatic bid to Nationals, another is looking to better their seed at Regionals, and another is trying to build momentum in order to win their way into the postseason.
Here’s where all four teams stand heading into this year’s Wasatch Cup.
#1 Seed: #2 Utah Utes (22-2-2)
The Utes are the defending Wasatch Cup champs after beating Utah State 2-1 in triple overtime in last year’s tournament, and again are the number one seed in this year’s event. The Utes have continued to beat the in-state teams both at home and on the road, posting a 5-0-1 record against the three in-state schools this season.
Outside of the state of Utah, the Utes are looking for their second straight auto bid to Nationals after hosting the tournament last year. They currently control their own destiny for that auto bid as they sit at number two in the ACHA West Rankings. Another Wasatch Cup title this weekend could virtually lock up a spot at Nationals for the Utes.
#2 Seed: #3 Utah State Aggies (17-9-2)
Trying to take that auto bid away from Utah is the team that finished second in last year’s Wasatch Cup in the Utah State Aggies. The Aggies are the second seed this year, after beating Weber State 3-1 in the semis and losing to Utah in the final as the three seed last year. Utah State also has a winning record against in-state teams this year with a 4-2-2 record against the other three.
The Aggies are coming off a three game weekend in Colorado, where they went 2-1 against #8 Northern Colorado and #15 Wyoming. Thanks to their strength of schedule the Aggies are just one spot behind Utah in the ACHA rankings at number three and could build a case to steal Utah’s auto bid to Nationals with a win over Weber State and hopefully another one against Utah in the final.
#3 Seed: #6 Weber State Wildcats (16-12-3)
This year’s third seed is also this year’s host in the Weber State Wildcats. In last year’s tournament the Wildcats lost to Utah State 3-1 in the semis but came from behind against an upset-minded BYU team to win the consolation game 4-3 in double overtime. The Wildcats are 3-3-1 this season against the teams from Utah, with two of those wins coming against BYU.
In the West the Wildcats look like they’re on their way to another trip to Regionals as they hold on to the sixth spot in the ACHA West Rankings, which right now would be good enough to be one of the top four seeds at the three-day tournament in Logan next month. A win against Utah State in the semis would be huge for their seeding at Regionals and they could move up even further if they can get past the Utes as well.
#4 Seed: #18 BYU Cougars (6-15)
The final seed at this year’s Wasatch Cup is once again the BYU Cougars, who this time comes into the tournament as a ranked team at number 18. The Cougars once again are winless though against their in-state opponents, going 0-7 this year after being 0-9 going into last year’s tournament. At last year’s Wasatch Cup the Cougars fell to Utah 7-4 in the semis and lost 4-3 in double overtime to Weber State.
This time around the Cougars will look to make some waves of their own as the only way they’ll reach the postseason this year is if they win the MWCHL Championships next weekend in Logan, as a trophy there will give them an auto bid to Regionals. A win or two this weekend would be huge to build momentum for this Cougar squad.
Friday’s semifinal games kick off at 4pm at the Weber County Sports Complex with Utah taking on BYU in the first semifinal. Weber State will host Utah State at 7:25pm in the other semifinal. The consolation and championship game times will be announced after the semifinals are complete. The Utah-BYU game and both the consolation and championship games will be broadcasted live on Utah Hockey Game Day Live.