The BYU Cougar hockey team hopes to have its top scorers back to take on two formidable opponents, Wyoming and Utah State, this weekend at home.
The Cougars played three days in a row twice in the last two weeks, and the schedule has taken its toll on the Cougar players. Nick Bartholomew suffered a foot injury while Ryan Hoeke suffered a concussion during last week’s games. BYU head coach Josh Burkart is fairly hopeful he will have his two leading scorers back this week to aid in adding two more wins to the season.
“Nick Bartholomew should be ready,” Burkart said. ”We are just taking it day by day. And Hoeke is getting checked out this Wednesday to see if he has any lingering effects; if not then he could play this week.”
The Cougars lost badly in their rematch against Denver, due in large part to the lack of their top players out on injuries. Burkart said in any case BYU will also be looking to Chris Tuttle and David Gebert to come up big for the Cougars. They’ll need to if they are going to beat Wyoming and Utah State.
Interestingly, Burkart said in particular they are viewing Utah State as the team that has set the bar for the level of play the Cougars want to reach.
“They are a benchmark team,” Burkart said. “Utah State has set the bar for where we need to be, and we need to elevate our play and continue our progression.”
Utah State is one the top teams in the nation, going to nationals almost every year. Last year the team made it all the way to the semi-finals at nationals. It has a lot of returning players from last years’ team, so the Cougar’s say they will have to be on their A game if they are take down this experienced and formidable team.
In addition, the Cougars are focusing on some areas this week in practice where they made mistakes, in particular their ability to defend the penalty kill.
“Against Denver we gave up three goals on penalty kill,” Burkart said. “We need to focus on the right positioning, slides and communication.”
The Cougars believe they have a good chance against the University of Wyoming, since each team lost to Northern Colorado this year 5-2. Moreover, one of the goals against the Cougars resulted from BYU pulling its goalie out to create a man up situation at the end of the game.
The Cougars say they hope to have a lot of support from their home crowd Friday at 7 p.m. against the University of Wyoming and Saturday at 7 p.m. against Utah State.