The BYU hockey team is determined to get its first win of the season in front of a home crowd Oct. 3 against California-Berkley. Despite losing their first four games of the season, the Cougars believe things can only get better from where they are now.
“We started off playing the three best teams in our region,” said Chris Tuttle, assistant team captain for BYU. “But now we are playing some other teams we are more comparable to. We believe we should be able to beat the majority of these teams outside of Utah including California Berkley.”
The Cougars started the season with a short bench. The small team was cut down even more with five of its players out on injury last week, which was a large contributor to the loss against Utah. Three of those players will return this week but will see limited playing time.
“We will keep getting better as the season goes on,” said Josh Burkart, head coach of the BYU hockey team. “The guys will get used to going the full game with a short bench.”
Burkart said the BYU players are progressing with every game and every practice. With the short bench, the Cougars are working extra hard to drill their team systems until they become second nature and to build up more game-speed endurance.
The game Thursday is California Berkley’s first game of the season, so the team will be looking for its first win as well. Burkart said their opponent only played thirteen games last year but that each was a high-scoring game.
“They are looking to score a lot of goals, but they may be not as disciplined on defense. The first period will be a filler to see how they play,” Burkart said.
Cal is expected to be a little rusty with its first game of the season and having to travel so far. The Cougars plan to take advantage of this by dropping on California hard and early in the game.
The Cougars’ goal from here on out is to start racking up wins in bunches. The past two years, BYU has only won two games each season, but the BYU hockey team is dead set on winning at least half of its games this season. Things have been rough in this rebuilding season for the team, but the Cougar players are tougher than their challenges.
“The physical aspect in the game is important, but it’s a mental and emotional aspect as well, knowing every shift; you are going to have to fight through fatigue. We know we have a lot of adversity against us, but we are remaining hopeful,” Tuttle said.
Hockey is a rough sport, so injuries are to be expected. Off-season condition is crucial to being physically prepared to be hit and smashed all season long. Off-season conditioning may be more difficult since BYU hockey is a club sport and all off-season conditioning is voluntary.