The first half of the Oregon club hockey season was tough, and the team’s 5-8 record shows it. With a schedule loaded with skilled teams, the Ducks came out of the gate facing some of their toughest opponents. However the Ducks are excited and optimistic heading into the second half of the season.

One reason for their optimism is that of their eight losses, six of them were by two or fewer points.

More importantly, two of those close games were played in Tempe, Arizona against the current Pac-8 champs, Arizona State. In the first game, Oregon held a lead going into the third period before ultimately losing 3-2. After ending that first night with a few injuries, the Ducks still held off ASU in their second game before eventually losing 2-0.

“The games that we lost, none of them were blowouts and we didn’t get killed,” said team coordinator Terran Donnelly. “They were all winnable games and it all came down to one or two mental errors… or that we only played as well as we should’ve for two periods.”

The Ducks will be playing their first two games of January at home against UCLA this weekend. As Oregon rarely plays the same teams as UCLA, the Bruins will be a gauge to see how the Ducks stack up against the southern Pac-8 teams. The last time the two played was in the playoffs last year.

“They’re pretty good,” captain Patrick Sgarlata said. “They’re solid. For the most part I think they can beat any team in the league if they come out and play their best game, at least from the past. Last year we played them and it was a pretty close game.”

Although the Bruins are not a team to write-off, Oregon still believes that they can go 8-0 this quarter. That record would include winning two notable away games against Washington for the last half of the I-5 Cup series and taking back the I-5 Cup. Oregon won the first half of the series 9-5 and 7-2, which is atypical for what are usually close games.

“I don’t (think we are guaranteed a win),” Sgarlata said. “It’s always different going to play them (UW) and play on their Olympic-sized ice. They have a home ice advantage there. And I don’t know if you can ever expect to beat a team like that.”

Sgarlata may be hesitant about those two games, but for the most part people are cautiously expecting a win. “Cautiously” because in the last six seasons, Oregon has only won the I-5 Cup twice.

“I, as well as other people in the broadcast and other people on the team, were let down with UW’s performance,” said Dylan Lee, executive producer of the Oregon hockey broadcast. “Directly after those games it was dissatisfying… I think for those two (away games) there’s going to be a chance that they (UW) make it an actual game, but I don’t see it really going that way.”

No matter how future games pan out, right now the Ducks are ready to get back out there.

“We’re more excited than worried (by our record).” Sgarlata said. “We’re excited to go out and play some hockey.”

Follow Anne Yilmaz on Twitter @anneyilmaz

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