January 22, 2016
Salt Lake City, UT
The University of Utah Skatin’ Utes return to the ice this weekend as they welcome in the USC Trojans for the final PAC-8 games of the regular season for Utah.
This weekend’s games will be the first for Utah in the second semester, after the team posted a 20-2-2 record in the first semester and now head down the home stretch with just a couple of weeks left in the season.
The Utes last battled the Trojans during last year’s season, as Utah picked up 6-3 and 8-2 wins in Southern California last year. Overall, the Utes are 8-1 all-time against USC with the lone loss coming in 2013 at home. The Utes have outscored the Trojans 47-19 in those nine contests.
This year the Trojans are 7-13 coming into this weekend’s games against Utah. The interesting note about USC this year is that the Trojans have not beaten a team outside the PAC-8 Conference, posting a 0-11 record against non-conference opponents. On the flip side, USC is the top ranked team in the PAC-8 right now, with a 7-2 record in conference play.
Most of the offensive production for USC this year comes from a pair of forwards, with Cory Newman and David Begert leading the team by far in points with 39 and 38 respectively. The two forwards have a 20 point gap between them and the next man on the points list for USC, who is Jackson DAnna with 18 points on the year.
On defense though, the Trojans are breaking in a new goaltender as Nathan Urquhart has graduated after playing in between the pipes for 15 of USC’s 20 games this season. Jeremy Blaustein is the new tender for the Trojans, who made his debut last weekend going 1-2 against Oregon and Loyola Marymount at home. In those three games Blaustein posted a 4.00 GAA and .865 save percentage.
As for Utah, the Utes come into the second semester with a 20-2-2 record and must survive just four more weeks to claim one of the two automatic bids to Nationals. This weekend’s games against USC are the final PAC-8 games for Utah in the regular season and with a pair of wins this weekend, the Utes will finish with a perfect conference record for only the second time since the Utes joined the conference.
Friday night’s contest will also be a special one for Utah, as they host their 4th Annual Fearless in the Fight Breast Cancer Awareness Game. The Utes will wear special jerseys for the event that will be auctioned off during the game, along with a raffle, numerous vendor booths, and player autographs after the game.
Friday night’s game will be at 7pm at the Utah Ice Sheet and Saturday’s game will take place at 8:30pm. Tickets are available online or at the door and both games will be broadcasted on Utah Hockey Game Day Live.
UTAH GAME NOTES:
“ON THE ROAD” TO NATIONALS
The Utes have just 8 or 9 games remaining on the schedule this year (amount depends on Utah’s seed at the PAC-8 Championships next month) and are one ranking away from clinching an automatic berth to Nationals for the second straight season. Only three of those games will be at home however, which means Utah’s final test of the regular season will need to be accomplished on the road.
THE ASSISTING RACE
Shaymus Bertagnolli made Utah Hockey club history last semester by breaking Michael Vrtis’ career assists record and now has 122 assists during his career at Utah. While he may currently hold the record, there is another active Ute that is right behind him. Fellow forward Chase McDonald only trails Bertagnolli by five assists with 117, which sets up what should be a dramatic race for the assists record with both players being in their final season at Utah.
WILL MYER KEEP HIS LEAD?
Rookies have always done well at Utah over the last couple of seasons, and that trend has continued this year with rookie Brett Myer leading the team in points with 40 this year. Myer currently has a ten point lead over all of his teammates and is 14 points away from cracking the top ten for most points in a season by Utah hockey player. With only a few games remaining will the rookie hold on to his lead or will someone else make a run for the top spot?