By Matthew Hargreaves
The Provo IceCats will electrify the air and provide hard-hitting excitement for the crowd as they play their last games of the season this weekend at the Peaks Arena.
In a match-up of two physical teams, the IceCats look to improve their record to 17-11, the team”s best in over six years, with two victories over the Montana State University Hellcats.
The IceCats, already celebrating a team-record 15 victories, have never lost to Montana State at the Peaks Arena.
“They”re a pretty good team,” assistant coach Patrick Perrett said. “We play them every year, but we dominate them in Provo. We definitely have an advantage with our big crowds and big ice.”
The IceCats play in the Peaks Ice Arena, which was used for several of the 2002 Winter Olympic men”s and women”s hockey games and is a larger ice surface than most arenas.
According to the 2002 Olympic hockey web site, Olympic ice surfaces are four meters wider and two meters longer than the standard North American rink. This makes for more wide-open play and faster action.
The open ice also provides for more scoring opportunities on the power play. Additional scoring is what Provo”s power play teams need after being ineffective during the last few games against Boise State.
“We struggled in the last game against Boise State,” Perrett said. “So we”ve been working on our power play, our fundamentals and our passing. We look to our top two lines to step up their play.”
This weekend”s games will also have added significance for several seniors on the team, as it will be their finals games of competitive hockey.
“There are a lot of nostalgic feelings when I think about the games,” senior winger Miguel Lopez said. “It will be my last chance at competitive hockey, but I”ll miss the players and the road trips the most.”
Other seniors on the team include captain Greg Ingram, injured winger Joey Hale and winger Jesse Thorpe.
Lopez also spoke about the success the IceCats have had this year. Improving from a 0-9-1 record two years ago, Lopez attributed much of the success to playing more united as a team.
“The players came together a lot better than in previous years,” Lopez said. “After coach [Ray] Bernier resigned, we had to look inward and be closer as a team.”
The addition of assistant coach Kevan Guy, a retired player of the National Hockey League, also brought experience and winning to the team.
“Having him [Guy] there at practice really helped,” Lopez said. “He really knows what he”s talking about, everybody listens.”
Coach Perrett mentioned sophomore center Jimmy Burkhart as one of the players he expects to have a big game against Montana State.
“Jimmy”s been on a hot streak lately,” Perrett said. “I”m looking for him do a spin-o-rama in the game.”
A “spin-o-rama” refers to a scoring moved perfected by Denis Savard who played professional hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL.
Perrett also expects big crowds for this weekend”s games as the IceCats are giving away prizes to the crowd in appreciation for their support this season.
“We want this to be a fan appreciation night,” Perrett said. “We also want people to know about recruiting and fund-raising opportunities happening during the off-season.”
Game time for Friday and Saturday”s games is 7:30 at the Peaks Ice Arena.