Ducks looking for three-peat as Pac-8 champs this year

Blair Ryan

The Oregon Ducks club hockey team opened its season last weekend in victorious fashion, defeating the UCLA Bruins 10-0 on Friday night and 4-1 on Saturday night. The team is trying to become Pac-8 Hockey Conference champions for the third consecutive year.

The Ducks, after only having four days of team tryouts and two practices, came out and dominated the short-handed Bruins, who only dressed 13 players for each game.

The situation was so dire for UCLA that its emergency-backup goaltender was actually wearing the lightning yellow pads of Oregon backup goaltender Chris Takla on Friday night (American Collegiate Hockey Association rules state that if a team does not have a backup goaltender, it forfeits the game, and UCLA’s regular backup did not make the trip up from Los Angeles).

After outscoring their opposition by 13 goals over two games, most coaches would be ecstatic about how their offense performed, but Oregon coach Scott McCallum was much more pleased with the play of his defense, led by reigning first team All-Pac-8 selection Justin Lacasse, who played effective defense, scored a goal Friday and had two assists Saturday.

“Shutting out UCLA was a great way to start out the year, but it was a little unexpected,” McCallum said.

The coach was not the only one impressed with the play of the defense. Forward Sam Cehula said he was glad with the strong D, but he believes the team has “a long way to go” before it gets to the level that last year’s team was at.

“10 goals is bound to happen against a team that is only dressing 13 guys,” Cehula said. “We were out there running four lines for the whole game, and we were able to keep our guys fresh.”

The depth for the Ducks is impressive, given the turnover they faced after last season’s title run. Gone are former team captain and first team All-Pac-8 defenseman Jeff Gibb, leading scorer and second team All-Pac-8 winger Cameron Forni, and honorable mention All-Pac-8 forward Cale Meyer.

In their stead, a bunch of players who got limited playing time last season have stepped in. The most impactful of these players is forward Kevin Trihey. Trihey went from not playing much last season to the second line, and he rewarded that decision with one goal and two assists over the weekend.

Another key newcomer to the team is forward Ian Law. Law was one of three players to score two goals on Friday, along with forwards Erik Brody and Tom Stocklin, and followed that up with another goal on Saturday.

However, it’s not just the newcomers for Oregon who are making an impact. Stocklin and Cehula, who were second and third on the team in points last season, return along with Lacasse and goaltender Wren Arbuthnot, who played for the first two periods of the shutout on Friday.

Even with the great showing that Oregon had against UCLA, McCallum doesn’t seem confident in his team’s ability to be champions again this year.

“I’m sure we have a chance, but I’m not arrogant enough to think we’ll walk through the conference,” he said. “I do feel confident enough to say that we’ll be in the
championship game.”

If the Ducks are as successful this season as they were last season, they will be in contention to qualify for ACHA West Regional Final, which requires a top-10 ranking in the poll.

Last season, because of some bad-early season non-conference losses, Oregon managed to go undefeated in the Pac-8 yet still finish ranked 13th in the poll.

“First and foremost, we want to win the Pac-8,” McCallum said. “(But) we need to win all of our non-conference games to get to regionals.”

Oregon’s next games are against Washington State, and take place on Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. and Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Lane County Ice Center.

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