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Utah College Hockey Teams Battle For In-State Bragging Rights

Utah celebrates the overtime win of the Wasatch Cup Championship game versus Utah State on January 31, 2015. The University of Utah hockey team is one of many club sports at the U. that enhances the student experience. The Skatin’ Utes have a solid following with more than 700 season ticket holders. Home games are played at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex on Guardsman Way. Hannah Padaoan

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The 6th annual Wasatch Cup kicks off tonight at the Salt Lake Sports Complex (Steiner Ice) on the University of Utah’s campus.

Utah, BYU, UVU, Weber State and Utah State will all take the ice to find out who is actually the best team in the state.

“The Utes have always had that attitude that they are the top team in the state,” said Aggies head coach Todd Renae, who expects their first game, which is against Utah, to be the most intense.

The Aggies have managed a win and an overtime loss in their previous two games against the Utes this season. The Aggies are young, with the core of their team being freshmen and sophomores.

“Being such a young team, I am surprised with how well we have adapted to some of the challenges we have faced. This team never gives up,” continued Renae.

Utah is the only ACHA Division 1 team in the tournament and they are at home, so you’d think that would give them the upper hand, but Utah has struggled in Division 1 this season, going 7-13
and has already dropped games to in-state teams, who all seem to set their sights on beating the D1 team.

The Utes had both of their goalies go down with injuries early in the season and had several other injuries they had to battle through as well. No Utah goaltender has a save percentage above 89 percent on the season.

Former NCAA D1 commit Che Landikusic is leading the Utes with 16 goals, 11 assists for 27 points in 21 games.

In a weekend full of rivalry games, all the teams seem to be focused on their Weber State game as well.

“Our goal, which we set at the beginning of the year, is to win the Wasatch Cup,” said Weber State head coach Kiyoshi Ryujin, “We know we will be facing some great teams, but it’s a challenge we’re excited for.”

The Wildcats were ranked #3 in the ACHA Division 2 rankings a few weeks ago but have fallen to 5th. With only two weekends left until nationals, the Wildcats know they need a strong showing this weekend.

“We need to start playing with more urgency than we have had the last couple of weekends. Early on the guys were earning our results and lately, we’ve gotten away from that,” Ryujin stated.

Now in their 4th season, Utah Valley’s team has not even been around as long as this tournament.

“We’re excited and ready,” stated UVUs head coach Darin Peck, “We’ve lost two players at the semester break but added a player from BYU.”

BYU is the defending tournament champion. After a decent season last year, the Cougars surprised everyone by winning the Wasatch Cup and then the Mountain West Conference. As of right now, the Cougars are sitting just outside of the playoffs and need wins and to probably once again win the conference to get into national contention.

The Cougars will be playing without captain Nixon Barber who suffered a lower-body injury last week against Colorado and hopes to be back in two weeks.

“I look forward to playing for the hardware during this weekend,” Barber said. “We’ve played these teams multiple times this season, but this has all the bragging rights attached to it. It’s our opportunity to prove that BYU competitor in this area and not just another game on your schedule. I look at Utah State as our true rival. We’ve had tight games, wins on each other’s home ice and I think the Aggies have been the standard for Utah club hockey. They seem to always be ranked in the top 10 and always going to regionals.”

There is a lot on the line for all the teams this weekend and that makes for great, entertaining hockey.

Find the full schedule and more information here. 

Utah Puck Report is a podcast all about Utah hockey, from interviews with NHL stars to which Grizzlies players are about to take the next step, Utah Puck Report has everything for a Utah hockey fan. Find it wherever you find podcasts or on KSLSports.com.

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