Aggie hockey ends Utes’ win streak, split home-and-home series

Dec. 1, 2017 Hockey vs UofU _Megan.Nielsen-10

The Utah State hockey team halted an 11-game losing streak to the University of Utah Friday night with a dominating 7-2 win.

The Utes, a division one team in the ACHA, have had the Aggies’ number since 2015, the last time USU topped the Salt Lake City team (which was also a 7-2 win).

Beating a division one team is no small feat. The current number one ranked team in division two, Penn State, has only one loss on the year. The team they lost to is West Virginia, an unranked division one team just two games above .500 (8-6-0).

Head coach Jon Eccles praised his team for not being intimidated by the Utes’ division one status or their win streak over the Aggies.

“The guys did not back down one inch,” Eccles said. “At times I think we’ve had better teams, but we just could get over the hump. Today was a great, character win.”

Friday’s game was part of a home-and-home series with the University of Utah. The Utes won the second leg of the series 3-2 in Salt Lake City.

In the first game, the Aggies jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the first period and never looked back. The only goals the Utes scored were on power plays, unable to beat goalkeeper Austin Willenborg when both teams were at even strength.

Willenborg faced 53 shots, saving 51 of them. Most of those saves came in the third period as USU spent eight minutes in penalty kill. His efforts were part of the reason forward Alex Herman called the Aggies’ penalty kill “phenomenal.”

Chris Cutshall had a hat trick to lead the Aggies, his second hat trick of the year. McJimsey said Cutshall’s impact comes from more than just goals and assists.

“Without him on the ice [we] might not be playing as much together as we have been,” said forward Morgan McJimsey. “He definitely brings us up. He’s a great team player and wouldn’t want to play with anybody else.”

Unfortunately for Utah State, they couldn’t carry the momentum to Salt Lake.

“We didn’t come out with that same intensity that we did last night,” Eccles said following the second game. “We started out flat, it was almost like we were satisfied with the win last night.”

Despite the loss the Aggies are playing some of their best hockey of the year right now. Before Saturday’s loss they were unbeaten in their last eight games, a stretch that has included contests against four top-six teams in the West.

“Winning’s contagious,” Herman said. “Just because everyone starts doing the right things over and over again in practice and in games.”

In those eight games, USU averaged 6.9 goals per game and allowed just 2.4 goals allowed. In only two of those games did the Aggies allow more than two goals while always scoring at least four.

“This is my fourth year, and this is the best team since I’ve been here,” McJimsey said. “If we play like we have been the past eight games no one can beat us.”

Herman said the team still has yet to reach its full potential, saying the team is at “75 percent” of what they could accomplish, as evidenced by USU’s loss to the Utes a day after beating them soundly.

The Aggies’ next game will be against BYU at the George S. Eccles Ice Center on Friday at 7 p.m. Utah State played the Cougars Nov. 11 in Provo and won 9-3.

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