BYU and Utah will meet on the ice in a rivalry that has been fierce all year long for two back-to-back games this weekend.
So far this year the teams have seen major injuries and suspensions in contests won by the Utes. The atmosphere has been like that of other sports, with emotianally charged fans. Freshman goalie Emma Seymour has experienced the environment firsthand.
“It definitely is a hardcore rivalry,” Seymour said. “Especially in football, I experienced a little bit of that when the Utah BYU football game happened.”
One of the players injured in the first meeting was BYU defender Jake Wells, who returned to action last week. He has a few goals for his return trip to Salt Lake City.
“This time I want to stay in the game,” Wells said. “(I want to) stay in the game and play more precise in the defensive end.”
Wells’ return gives the Cougars a healthy lineup. This is important on defense where the Utes were able to capitalize on several rebound shots. Wells wants to make sure his goalies aren’t seeing multiple shots in front of the net.
“When those shots come I need to try and keep my head up and look for the guys around me better instead of looking at the puck,” Wells said.
The Cougars will also look to use the skill set of Wells in order to help the offense.
“(Wells) brings a lot of game maturity, even as a freshman, to the situation,” BYU Coach Jeremy Weiss said. “He is a good offensive defenseman so we’ll be looking for some offense from him.”
One blow to the team is the loss of captain Mitch Facer, who will sit out the game because of a minor concussion suffered near the end of Saturday’s game against Montana Tech. Even with that loss, Weiss is happy with where the team is at.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Weiss said. “We’ve got a healthy lineup now.”
Last time, BYU and Utah met, the Cougars had the lead, but let the game slip away in the last few minutes of the second period. Weiss is hopeful his team can come out on top this time around.
“Legitimately anything can happen,” Weiss said. “We’ve just got to give ourselves every opportunity to win the game. So I expect it to be a hard fought, dog fight.”
The first game will start at 8 p.m. on Friday in the the Salt Lake City Sports Complex. The teams will then travel south on Saturday to face each other in Peaks Ice Arena in Provo at 7:30 p.m.