The BYU Cougar hockey team is looking forward to a winning season this year as additions and changes are taking place. Last year was a difficult one for the Cougars, but they hope some new faces will help them to turn around their fortunes in 2013–2014.
“Last year we lacked some depth in some of the skill positions that we needed in order to compete at our best with the other teams,” said new head coach Josh Burkart, who worked as an assistant last season.
Last season was a trying season for the team, which went winless and was frequently blown out by schools with bigger hockey programs such as Utah State and Montana Tech. This year’s team knows there is nowhere to go but up.
Coach Burkart said there are several key elements that are going to help the Cougars start racking up wins. One of those is the goalie position.
“Our goaltending has improved,” Burkart said. “Kanton Jepson got home from his mission last winter semester, and he worked hard all summer. He’s going to be competing for the starting job.”
The Cougars have a deeper set of goalies this year, each with extensive experience playing hockey. Four goalies will compete for the top spot on the depth chart.
New additions to the team are going to be an important factor to the Cougars’ success. The Cougars had tryouts in late August and have finished training camp.
BYU looks to open its season with a win on the road against the Weber State Wildcats on Friday, Sept. 13 and then carry that momentum over to their home opener Friday, Sept. 20 against its rivals, the Utah Skatin’ Utes.
The Cougars are also changing leagues this season as they enter the Mountain West Collegiate Hockey League with Utah State, Weber State, Boise State, Denver University, Montana Tech and Montana State. Burkart and the Cougars are hopeful that at the end of the long road ahead of them, they will find themselves at the top of their conference.
“The winner of the conference will get an automatic bid to nationals,” Burkart said.
In the Division II Western Conference, the league BYU left after the end of last season, the top four teams from each region moved on to nationals.
While the Cougars are excited about the new league, it is going to be a long skate. This season the Cougars are going to play 35 games, as opposed to just 16 in 2012–2013.