Ice Jacks sweep pair of games in Las Vegas
By Matt Esaena
The Division II Northern Arizona University (NAU) Ice Jacks traveled to Las Vegas this past weekend to take on their in-conference rival, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels. Despite the Jacks being a more skilled team, UNLV was able to keep both games close. Friday’s match was a 9–6 win for NAU, and NAU came out on top 6–5 on Saturday.
The Jacks may have taken the nickname ‘Sin City’ in the wrong terms. NAU was constantly sending players to the penalty box, giving UNLV power-play opportunities through the game. Most of NAU’s penalties came on questionable calls from the officials both nights. NAU recorded a total of 50 penalty minutes in the series.
Two things from this series concerned head coach Travis Johanson: the officiating and the results on the scoreboard.
“The results of this weekend did not even come close to my expectations. We should have killed these guys; this should not have been a close game,” Johanson said after Saturday’s win. “But we come to Vegas and get hosed by the refs. Penalties were 20-to-5 in their favor. It’s hard to get anything going when you’re on the [penalty] kill the whole time.”
The match-up on Saturday night was played with a bad taste in both clubs’ mouths from the night before. After the game, the refs sent both teams to the locker rooms without a handshake because the officials thought something could get out of hand.
Sophomore forward Vinny Eck had two goals and an assist. Junior forward Greg Park knotted the game at five with fewer than five minutes remaining in the game. Senior goalie Quinn Mason started the game in net and had 38 saves to record the win. Junior forward James Terry scored the game-winning goal with just over three minutes to go in the game. The tally was Terry’s first of the season, so it gave the NAU bench a huge boost.
“It felt great. I knew I had to come out tonight and play hard,” Terry said. “It was a huge win for us, but I still think we need to come together a little bit to play a full three periods of hockey. But once we do that, we should be okay for the rest of the season.”
In the 9–6 win Friday night, the Jack’s offense was led by Eck, who had two goals and two assist while junior forward Rocky DeAngelo chimed in with a goal and two assists of his own. Junior goaltender James Korte started in net for NAU but was replaced by Mason after letting in four first period goals. After one period of play, the Jacks were down 4–1, but they were able to muster up a comeback and out-score UNLV 8–2 in the final two periods.
“[The] game was good, but it was definitely hard,” said Eck who totaled four goals on the weekend. “We picked up at the end and got the win.”
On a good note, the Ice Jacks power-play is improving. NAU was able to make the most out of the few chances they had with the man-advantage by scoring six power-play goals.
NAU also suffered a few injuries over the weekend. Senior defenseman Justin Frechoine sat out both games with an undisclosed upper body injury. Senior defenseman Aaron Ghan played Friday but had to miss the second game of the series due to a shoulder injury. The DII Ice Jacks have next weekend off before they host Long Beach State University at home, and the two defensemen have expectations to play in that series.
Unfortunately, sophomore forward Zach Fader suffered a broken collar bone in Saturday’s game and exited after the second period. Fader was unaware his bone was broken and it cut an artery. Fader was rushed down to Phoenix where is currently being taken care of at a heart-specialized hospital. Surgery is necessary and Fader will miss a significant amount of time. No timetable has been set as to when Fader will be out of medical care, but the team has faith he will pull through.
NAU will try to put the bad behind them and get ready for Long Beach, a team that did not qualify for any postseason play the previous season, but is much improved and playing top-ranking teams to close games.