One last ride for BYU hockey
BYU hockey came away with a dominant 5–1 win against Utah State in the team’s final home game as a university-affiliated team.
The Feb. 7 game was deadlocked 1–1 until BYU had three straight goals in a 5-minute stretch to put the game out of reach for Utah State in what could be the last meeting between the in-state rivals. Peaks Ice Arena was filled with BYU fans, something head coach Dave Pitcher has grown accustomed to in his time with the IceCats.
BYU hockey operated under the university’s affiliation for the last 15 years, but the school decided not to renew the yearly agreement in June 2021.
While the coaches and players are saddened by this news, they still put together a successful season. They compiled a 15–10 record including wins against in-state rivals Utah State, Weber and Utah Valley and sweeping the two-game series with Utah.
The final home game against Utah State served as Senior Night for all the players finishing their time with BYU hockey. Fifth-year senior and captain Jacob Eisenstat said this season definitely had a different feel to it compared to prior seasons.
“The atmosphere with all the guys is definitely different because it might be everyone’s last season out on the ice: It’s almost like everyone on the team is a senior in terms of hockey-playing,” Eisenstat said. “We’ve tried our best to enjoy every game and practice and not take it for granted, especially games like these.”
The team originated in 1996 as the Provo IceCats. For the past 15 years, the team played under the BYU name in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. While BYU never released an official public statement on the change, KSL Sports received a statement in September 2021 about ending the yearly agreement.
“After careful consideration, BYU has determined not to allow the Provo IceCats hockey program to use the name and mark of the university, beginning in May 2022,” BYU told KSL Sports. “The program was never sponsored by the university, nor has it been a part of BYU Athletics or the Student Life extramural program. BYU appreciates the understanding that has been shown by the IceCats organization of this decision, which was based upon several concerns, including Title IX constraints and organizational matters.”
Pitcher and players remain optimistic BYU hockey can continue in some capacity, despite BYU’s decision.
“We continue to work with the school. They have come to the table with us and we understand that there are a few things that need to be worked through on both sides,” Pitcher said. “There is effort being made on both sides, and a final decision has yet to be made. At this point, there is no guarantee, but at least the discussion of keeping the hockey team is being had.”
Pitcher started an online petition in the fall to try and save the team. The petition now has over 5,555 signatures on it.
Without the affiliation and approval from BYU, the hockey team is no longer allowed to compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association beyond this season.
For now, BYU will be competing at regionals in Colorado as the 10th-ranked team in the West. If they finish top-two in Regionals, they will qualify for Nationals for the first time in team history.