October 2, 2023
The Skatin’ Utes began their 2023-2024 campaign on the road in the Grand Canyon state, facing off against the state’s flagship university, the University of Arizona Wildcats. Utah played 2 games in 2 days at the Tucson Convention Center in downtown Tucson.
The first of said games did not go Utah’s way as U of A took the opener by a final tally of 5-4. Arizona capitalized on a slow start for Utah as the Wildcats dominated attack time for the first half of the period. With about 7 minutes remaining in the period, Utah was able to establish a good attacking sequence in the Arizona zone but the Wildcats took the puck away and scored on the counter attack.
With 16 seconds remaining in the first, Landon Langenbrunner picks off a pass as Arizona is trying to break the puck out of their end and buries a wrist shot past Arizona goaltender Niklas Seppanen.
Undoubtedly, Utah rode this momentum into the second period as the bus legs had clearly worn off. The Utes looked extremely poised, confident, and composed and took complete control of the game. About halfway through the period, Oliver Kraft let a shot rip from the point that went five hole on Seppanen and gave the Utes a 2-1 lead.
However, Utah made a few costly mistakes late in the second period. Arizona scored 2 goals 1 minute and 11 seconds apart to retake the lead. They would take this lead into the locker room at the end of the second period.
Utah was able to climb back in the contest again as Benji Mickel was crashing the net and tucked away a loose rebound to tie the game. This added momentum to the Utah bench continued for the next few minutes in the game. The Utes received a few power plays halfway through the third period and continued to add pressure on the Wildcats. As the last penalty was expiring, Utah made a costly turnover at center ice that allowed Brendan Williams to score a breakaway goal making it 4-3 Wildcats.
Arizona stole any momentum Utah gained on those 2 straight powerplays and scored again. U of A was peppering Utah goaltender Joey Greilich with shots and Jesse Lowell cashed in while crashing the net. Utah eventually would get one goal back as Landon Langenbrunner brought the game within one.
Utah pushed hard to tie the game up in the last 5 minutes, but came up short. The final score from game 1 was 5-4 in favor of Arizona.
Game 2 also did not go well for the Utes as Arizona was able to complete a home sweep. After the opening puck drop, Utah gained control and had a few scoring chances but a bad turnover led to a Wildcat goal less than 2 minutes into the game. This would be the only goal scored in the first period as the effort from the Utes looked much better to start this game than the previous one.
The game remained very evenly matched through the first 8 minutes of the second period. Utah had plenty of chances including an Ethan Light breakaway. However, Arizona found some open space and doubled their lead with about 11 minutes remaining in the second. This goal seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as Arizona went on to tally 3 more goals before the end of the period making it 5-0 for the hosts.
Arizona carried this momentum into the third period and scored another goal about 5 minutes in making it 6-0. Utah eventually responded and ended the shutout about halfway through the third when Landon Langenbrunner deflected a puck into the net. Arizona would eventually close out the scoring with their seventh goal not long after Utah got their first.
The final score of game 2 was 7-1 in favor of Arizona. The Wildcats very quickly gained 4 league points off the Utes with a home sweep.
Utah will travel back to Arizona next weekend to take on Grand Canyon University to try to earn their first WCHL conference wins on the season.