USU hockey defeats BYU in sluggish win

Nov. 19, 2017 Hockey vs NAU_Megan.Nielsen-20

Utah State hockey’s win over BYU 5-3 Friday night could prove to be costly for the team’s postseason hopes.

Defeating the Cougars is always a positive for the Aggies, and head coach Jon Eccles and assistant coach Shaun Gibbons pointed out that getting the win is the most important thing.

But there was lingering frustration that USU couldn’t establish dominance over a lesser team on home ice.

“This team has so much potential,” Eccles said. “It’s like we have a light switch and sometimes we don’t turn it on and we just go through the motions, we’re satisfied that we’re playing a game or something.”

In the last 41 matchups between these two squads heading into Friday’s game, Utah State had won 40 of them and by an average of 7.8 goals with 12 wins by 10 goals or more. When these two teams met in Provo earlier this year, the Aggies asserted themselves and won 9-3.

In that context, the two-goal win felt like a disappointment.

Not beating BYU by more could end up costing Utah State their number two ranking in the West. Williston State College was 0.04 points behind the Aggies in the rankings released Wednesday. Williston went 1-1 in two games this week.

BYU opened scoring between the two teams just a minute into the game. Utah State was able to respond with two goals later in the first to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, but the aggression and offense that defines the Aggies was notably lacking.

“We didn’t play our game,” Gibbons said. “We got caught up in some stuff after the whistle, took some penalties.”

On the offensive end, Utah State’s main point-getters were unable to make an impact on the scoresheet. The Aggies’ top three forwards, Morgan McJimsey, Josh Kerkvliet and Alex Herman combined for just one point on the night (an assist by Herman on USU’s last goal of the game).

“It was kind of frustrating that that didn’t show up,” Eccles said of the offense. “We’ve got several guys that are flirting between 15 and 20 goals and we’re not scoring.”

The frustration was palpable, but Gibbons said getting the win is all that matters.

“A win is a win,” Gibbons said. “That’s what we’re gonna go with and we’re just gonna keep moving forward.”

Utah State will not play until Jan. 6 when they will take on BYU on for the third time this year. The game will be in Provo.

Editor’s note: For more on Aggie hockey, follow Jason Walker on Twitter at @thejwalk67. 

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