More than 2,000 fans showed up to watch Utah State (24-10-1) come back to win 6-4 over the Weber State Wildcats (19-19-1) on senior night.
The fans showed up in full force, not only to support the Aggies in their final home game, but also to support “Team Teagan,” a cause devoted to helping Teagan Clark, a 3-year old girl born with a congenital heart defect called pulmonary atresia.
Team Teagan received $1 from every one of the tickets sold, along with money earned from T-shirt sales, donation boxes in the lobby and an intermission event where fans bought pucks to throw onto the ice, trying to get as close to center ice as possible (the person with the closest puck won a prize).
In addition to fan contributions, each player for Utah State wore a Team Teagan sticker on their helmet.
The support from the fans and players brought Teagan’s mom, Shelby, to tears.
“You guys don’t even know us, you don’t even know our little girl,” she said. “But you’re willing to step up and help a family that needs help. So we’re very grateful.”
Teagan’s father, Jake, shared in his wife’s gratitude.
“It’s just amazing to see,” he said. “It was almost standing room only out there. The support that we’ve got from people that don’t even know who we are. It puts some peace in my heart.”
Unlike the fundraising, the game couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for the Aggies. Less than eight minutes in, Weber State had put three shots past senior goalkeeper Austin Willenborg. By the end of the first period, Utah State had spotted the visitors a 4-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they woke a sleeping giant.
Before four minutes had gone by in the second period, Brett Fernandez, Ian Beckstrom and Branden Fisher all had scored for the home side. Later in the period, Morgan McJimsey joined the party, and Fernandez capped off a five-goal period for the Aggies by putting in the second of his two goals.
USU finished the job in the third by holding Weber State scoreless for the second straight period and icing the game with a goal halfway through the period.
Assistant coach Joe Pfleegor said that during the first intermission the coach’s message was simple
- Stay calm
- Chip away at the lead
- Play every shift
- Outwork the other team
The speech clearly worked as Utah State came out of the first intermission with a chip on their shoulder the size of the Wasatch Mountains.
Despite the large deficit, the coaches were very confident that their team could come back and beat the Wildcats.
“With the depth that we have,” Pfleegor said, “we knew they couldn’t keep up. It was just a matter of getting that first goal. As soon as the first goal went in we just exploded from there.”
Defensmen Branden Fisher, a senior, said that the little things played a major role in the comeback.
“It’s the little things that control the game as a whole, Fisher said. “The game, in reality, breaks down into little things and if you win over 50 percent of those little things then your chances of winning the game is high.”
The win was the final home game and send-off for the five seniors on the Aggies roster. Along with Willenborg and Fisher, defenseman Fisher, Shaun Gibbons, Joseph “Jo Jo Chase and forward Ian Beckstrom played their last for their fans.
Pfleegor was at a loss for words when asked what those five meant to the Utah State hockey program.
“They meant everything to it,” Pfleegor said. “Coach Eccles brings in some talented players but most importantly they graduate, they finish. In the end it’s all about graduating and getting that degree because the degree is what’s going to follow them around the rest of their lives.”
Pfleegor also described the seniors as leaders on the ice and in the classroom.
The Aggies head into the postseason as the fourth-ranked team in the West region. They will travel to Colorado to play in the regional tournament. Their first game will be Friday.