Ice Jacks drop pair of games against D-I UA
By Matt Esaena
The Division-II Northern Arizona University (NAU) Ice Jacks opened their season with two preseason exhibition games against the Division-I University of Arizona (UA) Wildcats. Despite playing up a division for these two games, the Ice Jacks were able to give UA a run for their money.
NAU was dropped by UA on Sept. 21, 7–3, and lost a close contest game the following night with a score of 4–2. For the most part, NAU’s coaching staff was happy with the team’s effort and attitude while taking on a Division-I school. The Ice Jacks’s players and coaches feel the team is going in the right direction to start this season.
“Overall it was a good weekend playing against a good D-I team,” head coach Travis Johanson said after the Saturday night game. “This is definitely a good starting point for our season.”
A perk of the 4–2 loss on Saturday was senior goaltender Quinn Mason’s performance. Mason started the game in net for the Ice Jacks and benefitted his team with a stunning 45 saves.
“I just kept thinking to myself, just keep stopping the puck,” Mason said. “I knew we’d have a chance to win that game because we shouldn’t have let them beat us by four goals the night before. Our guys were motivated by that.”
The Ice Jacks jumped out to a 1–0 lead five minutes into the game when sophomore forward Vinny Eck cleanly executed an offensive zone face-off and delivered to senior defender Aaron Ghan, who was waiting for the puck.
Ghan ripped a one-timer slap shot that found its way to the back of the net. That tally was Ghan’s first goal in more than two seasons.
“I just fired it on [the] net hoping something good would happen,” Ghan said. “It was a great face-off win by Vinny and it felt great to get the monkey off my back.”
The Wildcats were able to tie the game up minutes later on a rebound goal. After two periods of play, NAU trailed by a score of 3–2. With Mason’s stellar play in the net, the Ice Jacks had confidence heading into the third and final period.
But that confidence faded within the last nine minutes of the game in the game. NAU was unable to score on a 5-on-3 power-play that lasted 1:50. For the weekend, NAU’s power-play effectiveness was a mere 1-for-15.
After the Wildcats killed off those penalties, they marched down the ice and scored their insurance goal to ultimately end the hopes of a comeback for the Jacks and their sold-out crowd.
Friday, NAU wasn’t able to get a lead or even tie the game as UA skated off the ice with a 7–3 win. Junior goalie James Korte got the start in net for NAU and recorded 38 saves. Eck supplied the offense as he had two goals and an assist. Sophomore forward Zack Fader also added two assist to his stat column.
NAU trailed 5–3 going into the third, but UA was able to get two third period goals past Korte. The Ice Jacks were able to generate 32 shots on the net, but many of those shots were right into the chest of the Wildcat’s goaltenders. The Ice Jacks also missed a some opportunities to score on rebounds early in the game.
The Ice Jacks will practice for the next two weeks before traveling to Tempe to take on their other in-state rivals, the Division-II ASU Sun Devils.
“I think playing a D-I team this past weekend definitely helps,” Ghan said. “It’s a good experience for the rookies and this is the level of competition we are going to have to beat if we want to go to Nationals.”