The Cougars dropped a pair of games to the Orediggers 12–3 on Friday and 4–3 on Saturday.
The Cougars had to play without the services of defenders Tanner Billingsley and Scott Johnson on Friday who were suspended against Utah before the break.
“Nothing frustrates me more than sitting in the stands and watching the team play,” Billingsley said. “It kills me because I want to be out there helping contribute to the win.”
This forced the Cougars to play four defensemen the entire game. During special team plays Cam Hymas and Nick Bartholomew were called on to play on defense as well. The Cougars were grateful to have defender Jake Wells back on the ice since the beginning of the season who was eager for a return.
“It was actually the first time I’ve ever had to miss games,” Wells said. “So it was definitely a new experience for me and definitely made me want to get back as soon as possible to start playing with the team again.”
Not only was the defense short, but goalie Ted Piorczynski struggled getting back into the groove after a two week break, creating the perfect storm to allow the Orediggers to get up early and dominate the first game.
On Saturday, the Cougars faired better with the return of the suspended defenders. They were able to limit shot attempt on the defensive end and take advantage with their speed. After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, forward Mitch Facer began a Cougar rally by netting a goal.
“It was a two-on-one, and Coach (Jeremy Weiss) actually told us before the period that it was a left handed goalie,” Facer said. “So that is one of the rare opportunities that righties get to shoot low blocker. So he said to make sure and shoot low blocker.”
In the third period, forward David Gebert pulled the Cougars within one of the Orediggers with 12 minutes left in the third period. However, the Orediggers answered with what appeared to be a questionable goal.
“It was a bit of a scramble and it looked like Ted (Piorczynski) had it in his glove,” Weiss said. “I think they slashed his glove and knocked the puck out.”
Down by two, the Cougars pulled the goalie for the final 80 seconds of play. BYU capitalized on a play created by a big hit by Billingsley on the blue line, who followed the hit up with an assist to Bartholomew for another Cougar goal. The Cougars continued to attack and had some close calls in the final seconds, but in the end came up short and the Orediggers took the game 4–3.
“We had a lot of really good chances to score in the end,” Weiss said. “We hit the post once and their goalie came up with a huge save on a clear cut chance for Tanner (Billingsley). It was a ridiculous save that he made.”
Weiss said he was proud of his team being able to settle down and begin to play the percentages better in the second game. He hopes they will continue to move forward with this focus in their final series against the University of Utah before Christmas break.