January 31, 2015
Salt Lake City, UT
When the Wasatch Cup tournament was formed last summer the goal was to determine the best team in the state of Utah, a title that has long been argued but never really won here in the Beehive State.
After the two-day tournament, we now have our first champion of the Wasatch Cup as the Utes beat BYU and Utah State to win the trophy in its inaugural season.
On Friday the top-seeded Utes took on a much-improved BYU side that looked to pull off the upset of the weekend after forcing the third ranked Utes to overtime in Provo a few weeks ago.
After an even first period that saw Utah go ahead by a score of 1-0, the Utes scored twice early in the second to go up 3-0 and it looked like the rout was on for Utah. But two quick goals from the Cougars ended that trend as the Utes’ lead quickly diminished to just one at 3-2. The teams would trade goals late in the period until Ben Seastrand’s goal in the final minute of the second period gave Utah what would be the game-winning goal as the Utes lead 5-3 heading to the third.
Utah would add two more in the final period and after a tough battle the Utes beat the Cougars for the 22nd straight time by a score of 7-4 to advance to the Wasatch Cup Final. Chris Komma had 21 saves in the win for Utah as four different Utes (Seastrand, Chase McDonald, Ahern, and Newell) all had three points in the contest for Utah.
The championship game of the tournament would prove to be an even tougher test as the Utes took on Utah State, who beat Weber State 3-1 in the semifinals to advance to the title game. The last time the Utes faced the Aggies was not kind to Utah, as the Utes fell 7-2 in Logan and looked to change the script in the championship game.
The Aggies came out flying in the first period, outshooting the Utes and scoring the opening goal to take a 1-0 lead into the second period. In middle frame Utes found momentum firing shot after shot until Kurtis Kunz scored on the power play from a pass from Josh Dangel to tie the game at 1-1 after two periods.
The Utes continued their momentum in the third period but could not find a goal as the first ever Wasatch Cup Final would be decided in overtime with the score still tied at 1-1.
After a five-minute overtime period went scoreless to officially mark the game as a draw for both teams (ACHA Rules), the two sides battled it out for another ten minute period with numerous chances by both teams going by the wayside.
The fireworks began to fly late in the second overtime as Utah was called for intentionally dislodging their own net, which by rule is a penalty shot that was awarded to Utah State.
With just 24 seconds left in double overtime, forward Cooper Limb advanced on goaltender Chris Komma looking to win the Cup for the Aggies. Komma came out of the battle victorious, flashing a right leg to make a pad save on Limb to keep the game going into a third overtime.
In the third overtime, the Utes were awarded a power play early as David Barnes was taken down and the Aggies were called for holding. Already on a 4-3 power play, the Utes controlled the pace until Aggie goaltender Austin Willenborg knocked the net off its moorings and was called for delay of game, the same call that was made less than two minutes earlier on Utah. The Utes were awarded a penalty shot for the offense and leading scorer Josh Dangel elected to take the shot for Utah.
With the home crowd of close to 2,000 fans on their feet, Josh Dangel moved towards Willenborg and beat the tender on his glove side to seal the win for Utah and claim the first-ever Wasatch Cup.
The Utes outshot the Aggies 60-36 in the game that officially went into the ACHA record books as a tie. Komma picked up his second win of the weekend, officially making 35 saves but many more, as the shots in the extra overtimes were not counted on the score sheet.
With the tie, the Utes are now 4-1-1 this season against the Aggies with one game left and are 13-1-1 against teams from the state of Utah this year.
The Utes now shift their attention towards another trophy this weekend, as the Utes look for their second PAC-8 championship in club history as the number one seed at the 2015 PAC-8 Championships in Lake Tahoe, CA. The Utes will play the winner of the game between Washington and UCLA on Saturday in the semifinals to start their push toward their fourth straight PAC-8 Championship game.