The BYU hockey team lost 12-2 to Northern Arizona University Nov. 7 and lost 7-2 and 5-1 against Arizona State University Nov. 8 and 9 as more BYU players were injured and the Cougars were unable to compensate.
The Cougars fought valiantly in every game, and they say they felt like they improved with each game. But the Cougars made mistakes in their defensive zones, which led to NAU goals. BYU’s Mitch Facer and Scott Mehr each suffered groin injuries during the game, shortening the BYU’s bench even more. The BYU Cougars now have 5 of their 19 players on the team with injuries, which means more play time and more fatigue for the other players, which leads to more mistakes for BYU.
BYU head coach Josh Burkart said one of the keys to winning this season will be learning to handle the puck well even while playing tired.
“Once our boys learn how to take care of the puck while they are fatigued, we will close the gap with some of these teams we play,” Burkart said.
While the Cougars lost badly to NAU, they held their own for the most part against ASU. If not for brief intervals where BYU made mistakes that led to quick goals for ASU, the Cougars matched up well against them. Burkart was especially pleased with his team’s performance in the penalty kill, something they have struggled with in the past.
“In the past we gave up a lot of power play goals,” Burkart said. “But we held ASU to 0 -6 on their power play, so our penalty kill unit played very well.”
Burkart also added that in order to compensate for the missing players, several players who have proved they are responsible in handling the puck and playing well on offense and defense are playing double shifts. Having few players has proved to be an obstacle for the Cougars, but they say they are never giving up.
“We have a lot of heart; we didn’t give up,” BYU’s Chris Tuttle said.
Nick Bartholomew and Ryan Hoeke, BYU’s leading scorers, have now been out of action for several weeks because of concussions, and their return is still pending. Facer and Mehr each suffered groin injuries. Josh Punderson is out for the season after reinjuring a shoulder. Hockey is a tough sport, but the Cougars’ competitive spirit is tougher, and they look forward to playing Utah State next week.