Utah teams went 2-0 in week 2–Utah State hung on in an exciting matchup to beat Montana by a single goal, 12-11, in Coach Troy Oldham’s Aggie debut, and Utah Valley found their offense and rolled the Grizzlies, 21-6. The season starts to ramp up in week 3 with a strong Boise State team coming to town and the debut of Brain Holman’s Ute squad; we’ve got four games on the docket.
2/16 – Boise State @ Utah Valley – 7:00pm
The Wolverines have split their first two games, a loss to open the season against No. 10 Arizona and a convincing win over MCLA D-II Montana. They’ll have the privilege of welcoming the Boise State Broncos to the 2017 season with their third straight home game, and it looks to be a tough game 3. This BSU squad ended last season with a deceptive 7-7 record, giving ranked opponents BYU, CU, CSU, and Oregon State all they could handle. While the Broncos lose their leading scorer from last season, graduating Adam Smith, they return their next three most dangerous weapons, including sharpshooting midfielder Alex Wilson. BSU also brings back Quinn Mendiola, their main man at the faceoff X. And while they’ll replace their goalie from last season, junior goalie Ian McClure got game experience in roughly half of the Broncos’ contests last season.
Utah Valley seemed to find themselves in the fourth quarter of their opening contest against Arizona and were firing on all cylinders last week. The Wolverine underclassmen are leading the way this year–their defense is led by freshman goalie Bryson Williams who is saving a very good 65% of shots on cage and giving the Wolverines a chance to stay in any game; the offense is led by sophomore attackman Justin Haws who is averaging an astounding five points per contest so far this season. If the Green and Gold squad we saw against Montana shows up again this week, this could be one of the best under-the-radar games this year.
2/16 – Utah @ Chapman – 4:00pm
The Utes will take on the Panthers in what could be the most anticipated game of the young season–Chapman is now king of the hill as defending MCLA champions and Utah has made no (or little) secret about their aspirations in the coming years with their hiring of North Carolina assistant coach and recent NCAA champion Brian Holman. The Utes’ roster has changed a lot with their prospective move up, bringing in a lot of new talent, but also keeping on their top point-getter from last year, Luke Graney, and starting netminder, Quinton Swinney.
Chapman ran through the MCLA’s best last season with a perfect record that culminated in the Panthers’ first championship. They will have high hopes again this year, but will need to reload as they’ve lost five key players from last year’s roster. They do bring back key faceoff specialists Simon Jenkin and Jacob Blaznek, most contributing long poles, and sophomore goalie Daniel Aguilar who got game experience in every contest last year. If you find yourself in Southern California on the 16th, make this game a priority–it should be a good one.
2/18 – Washington vs Utah (@ UCLA) – 10:00am
The Huskies have already played three games this season: a loss to No. 23 Sonoma State sandwiched by wins over Portland and Dominican. Washington has shown several weapons on the offensive end–middies Warren Case and Sean Dack, and attackman Sean Maier, have all averaged over three points per game through the first three bouts. But the Huskies will need to improve on the defensive end if they want to keep up with Holman’s Ute squad; Washington is giving up a middling ten goals per game and is only saving 42% of shots on cage. If the trend continues, look for this matchup to be a fun offensive showcase.
2/18 – Boise State @ Brigham Young – 4:00pm
The No. 6 Cougars opened up the 2017 season with a statement win, defeating No. 10 Arizona by a resounding ten goals. However, the Cougars have had trouble with the scrappy Broncos in the past–last year, BSU hung around and BYU had to pull out the stops late to secure a close 14-11 victory. In BYU’s season-opening victory, freshman goalkeeper Mason Moon was named the MCLA’s Commanding Player of the Week for turning away an incredible 87% of shots that came his way. The Cougs will need Moon to step up again versus a BSU team that averaged over 12 goals a game last season. There should also be a great battle at the center X with BSU’s Mendiola (57% win rate last season) and BYU’s Connor Williams (6-1 on the season). Boise State will need to look out for BYU’s Tanner Johnson, who showed up as the offensive leader for the Cougs, scoring four against Arizona. The Broncos will need to have a top-10 caliber game if they hope to pull off the upset in this one.