BYU’s hockey team looks to start its season with a win on the road Saturday by taking down one of its toughest rivals, the Weber State Wildcats. Coaches and players say they have been busy preparing for the Wildcats, who in the past few seasons have built one of the most prolific hockey programs in the state.
“Weber State last year went to nationals, lost only one or two players and picked up a couple new players. They are a deep team that scored a lot of goals last year,” said coach Josh Burkart.
“Traditionally for the last few years Weber State and the Y don’t like each other a whole lot,“ said Brendan Hubbard, the Cougars’ team captain. “It will take everyone’s best effort to beat them.”
The Cougars are working with a smaller team this year, having a 14-skater roster as opposed to the normal 21-skater roster they’ve had in the past, goalies not included. But even with a smaller team, the Cougars have new defensive strengths this year that they will be looking to put into play against the Wildcats.
“There are a lot of key players,” Hubbard said. “Goaltending will definitely be a strength for us this year — we have a number of goalies that can step in, and it’s going to (be) competitive for them to prove themselves.”
Hubbard added that knowing there is a solid defense in the goalie position backing them up will give the Cougars a lot of confidence, which will help them to implement the rest of their team’s strategy.
“The game plan is to play our defensive zone systems to eliminate shooting opportunities (and) keep shots to the outside. … We are going to eliminate second-chance scoring opportunities, clear the puck,” Burkart said.
Defense is going to be critical for the Cougars in their match against the Wildcats, as the Wildcats have a reputation for their high-powered offense. Burkart said that once the puck has been moved to the offensive zone, the goal will be to get a lot of shots on the net and continually crash the net for rebounds.
The Cougars enter the game as underdogs, but Hubbard is optimistic about the team’s chances.
“We have a lot of character, worth ethic and people there for the right reasons, who have a desire to win and put the team first before themselves,” Hubbard said.
The two teams face off at the Weber County Ice Sheet Saturday at 7 p.m.