Ice Jacks return to Jay Lively with two-game win streak
The Division II Ice Jacks ended the past semester heading into winter break having lost eight of their last nine games, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
After a long break, a new year has brought a new attitude to the Ice Jacks’ locker room and the NAU team is confident they will regain the momentum they had earlier this season when they won seven straight match-ups.
“The boys played tough during that losing stretch; we played a lot of good teams in that tournament in Colorado and the boys tried hard,” said head coach Keith Johansen. “The boys are coming into this semester a little rusty after a long break, but they are determined, which is great.”
The Ice Jacks entered this semester ranked No. 8 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s western region.
This past weekend, the NAU hockey club started 2012 in a great fashion by dropping the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars 12–0 Friday night and defeating the No. 9 San Jose State University (SJSU) Spartans 6–3 the following night.
Getting off to a quick start against SJSU was part of NAU’s game plan, and that is exactly what it did. The Ice Jacks scored three goals in the first period of play. Another key stat to the game was the shots on goal: NAU outshot the Spartans 38–29.
Sophomore forward Greg Park netted two goals and added an assist to finish the night with three points. Park’s line mate, sophomore forward Ryan Greenspan, scored a goal and notched two helpers to finish the night with three points. Freshman forward Vinny Eck added two assists to help the line finish with a total of eight points on the night. Sophomore goaltender Quinn Mason had fans cheering through the game as he stopped 26 shots to earn the win for his team.
“It felt good to beat that team,” Mason said. “They are close to us in the rankings so we have to make sure we get the job done against a team like that.”
Friday night, the Ice Jacks dropped the visiting Cougars 12–0. In the blowout win, NAU had 17 skaters record at least one point. Sophomore goalie James Korte was not tested by the Cougars offense very often, but when he was, he stood tall, stopping all 19 of BYU’s shots attempts, earning his first shutout in his NAU hockey career.
The Ice Jacks made two roster moves to boost their offense for the second half of their season. The coaching staff activated senior captain Tucker Braund off the injured list. Braund had not played in a game since Oct. 29 due to a groin injury, and wasted no time contributing to the team by dishing out two assists in the win.
“My groin doesn’t feel too bad,” the team captain commented about his injury. “It isn’t at 100 percent yet, but it feels good enough to play. And I want to contribute to my team.”
The Ice Jacks also added a new player to the roster. Sophomore forward Zach Vader made his debut Friday. The NAU coaching staff could not have asked for a better start for the new skater, because he netted a hat trick in the blowout win.
“It was fun, playing in my first game at NAU,” Vader said with a smile as he talked about his Ice Jacks debut. “I’m glad I was able to contribute right away; I was on the good side on a lot of good passes.”
NAU started the new semester heading in the right direction, but now the task will be to stay on that path. The Ice Jacks have some big games coming up including a two-game series against No.1 ASU at the end of January. The Ice Jacks will look to stay positive and focused as they fight for a berth at the regional playoffs.
“We have to make sure everyone has their head in the game,” said senior assist captain Rob Brown. “We need to stay focused and stay hungry. Everyone here wants to make a hard run at nationals.”