Utah State hockey returns to home ice for the first time in nearly two months Friday to take on BYU for the fourth time this year and second at home.
The game will also be the team’s annual “Teddy Bear Toss.” Fans attending the game are encouraged to bring a teddy bear and donate it by throwing it on the ice after the first goal scored by Utah State.
Goals should be in no short supply for the Aggies. The team has averaged six goals per game in their last three meetings with BYU and have scored four goals in 14 of their last 15 games, averaging 5.5 in that span.
The Aggies will be looking for a dominant performance on both ends of the ice after stumbling somewhat though last weekend’s Big Mountain Classic, which led to them dropping from No. 2 to No. 3 in the West region rankings.
The only problem is that the Cougars have apparently forgotten the history between these two teams. Heading into last year, Utah State had won 36 straight contests against BYU by an average of nearly eight goals per game and had won by 10 or more goals on 12 of those occasions.
But it was last year that the other boys in blue got their first win over the Aggies in nine years. In that nine-year stretch, games between USU and BYU had only been decided by less than three goals five times. Utah State has still won six of the last seven games against the Cougars, but since the start of last season, there has been only one game decided by more than three goals (a 9-3 USU win earlier this year).
“They have gotten better each year,” USU head coach Jon Eccles said. “Ed Gantt has done a marvelous job there. They’re getting better players, they’re getting better play from their players.”
This game for Utah State could be a pivotal moment for their season. With the postseason looming and having just lost a top-2 ranking, building momentum needs to start soon. A win over a pesky rival could be just the thing that kick starts another win streak like the one the Aggies had back in November. And Eccles is confident his team will do just that against BYU.
“I think we’ll come out stronger,” Eccles said. “I think you’ll see us come out really strong and fast on these guys and hopefully try and break them quick and maybe get away from that three-goal and maybe make it a five or six goal differential.”
Getting out to a quick start has been a key to USU victories all year. In wins, the Aggies have outscored opponents 41-14 in the first period (in losses or ties, they are even in first period goals at 9-9). In Utah State ‘s 9-3 win over BYU earlier this year, they outscored them 4-0, one of only two times this year they have ended the first period with a four-goal lead.