By Brandon Judd
Road trips. They have been unrelenting on the BYU men”s basketball team lately and were a break away from rough home games for the Cougar football team in 2003.
Questions still remain on how the Provo IceCats will react to a few games away from home, considering they have only played two games on the road so far this season. They will get a huge test this weekend when they travel to Colorado and Wyoming for three games.
Assistant captain Jimmy Burkart is looking forward to the trip and what it can do to help with team unity.
“There are just things you do together (as a team) that brings you together as a family on the road,” he said.
Burkart said the IceCats (8-6-0-1) will not travel with their entire team, and time at the hotels and on the bus will give the smaller group of guys a chance to unify and find out more about each other.
“It will be a tough road trip,” said assistant coach Patrick Perrett. “It tests the team”s heart, and it brings them together.”
Provo begins the trip with a game at Denver University today, Jan. 15, then travels to Wyoming for a game Friday, Jan. 16. The team finishes off the weekend at Colorado State Saturday, Jan. 17.
Wyoming comes in with six wins in 10 games and was the runner-up last season in the Division III ranks. Colorado State is currently ranked No. 1 in the West Region of the Division II rankings, while Provo is ranked seventh.
“That Colorado State game will be a big game because they are No. 1,” Burkart said. “Win or lose, we need to have a good effort to impress the people running the polls.”
The next poll will be released this Sunday, putting more emphasis on the games this weekend because they will be fresh on the mind of the pollsters.
Burkart said the trip will be physically demanding on the IceCats because of the smaller squad and shorter rinks. The rinks Provo will be playing on are 15 feet shorter than the IceCats” home rink, Peaks Ice Arena, creating more traffic on the ice.
“We hope to get to the Colorado State game intact with our guys healthy,” Burkart said. “(Colorado State) has a bunch of guys that can skate and are physical.”
Burkart said the last time they faced a very physical team, Oklahoma, they weren”t successful in adjusting to the physical nature. Consequently, the IceCats” two losses to the Sooners were in their only two road games so far this season. Adjusting to that physical play will be a key this weekend.
Perrett said the team has been practicing extensively on the power play this week.
“We”ve been working on our special teams, producing on the power play,” he said. “We didn”t capitalize on the opportunities we had last week (against Utah State). With a smaller squad, we”ve had to plug new players into the power play.”
Burkart said Provo has also worked on implementing the trap, trying to force turnovers on defense to set up a fast break chances to score offensively.
Going into the weekend, Burkart leads the team in the points with 24 through 13 games. The IceCats also have a nearly 80 percent kill effectiveness shutting down opponents” power-play opportunities.
In addition to the tough competition they will face, Burkart has extra incentive to play well this weekend.
“My mom and dad will be there,” he said. “They will be flying out from Michigan. When mom and dad are there, you got to put on a good show.”