The camo-clad Razorback Hockey Club emerged victorious Friday night from its first test of 2022, downing the Dallas Baptist Patriots 3-0. Arkansas extended its winning streak to 11 games as it celebrated Military Appreciation Night inside a jam-packed Jones Center in Springdale.
The Ice Hogs returned to the rink for the first time since Dec. 4, 2021, and they appeared sharp defensively. The Razorback blueliners did not allow many quality scoring chances, and senior goaltender Jozef Dusenka recorded a 16-save shutout, the fourth by an Arkansas netminder this season.
“You could see there, we dominated the whole game, and it’s just so much easier to play with guys like this,” Dusenka said of the defensive play.
Despite solid defense, the forwards took a while to find their stride. In the first 20 minutes, Arkansas successfully killed three minor penalties, but the shorthanded time cut into its ability to apply offensive pressure.
“It’s been our struggle the whole season,” Dusenka said. “It’s not about too many penalties, it’s about too many unnecessary penalties that cost us a lot of goals.”
The Razorbacks opened the scoring late in the first period on a rush in transition. Sophomore right wing Trevor Borlace put the initial shot on goal, but Dallas Baptist goaltender Randy Miller coughed up a rebound and junior left winger Brad Estrada buried it. Not even two minutes later, senior right winger Jacob Yaseen doubled the Arkansas lead with a wrist shot from the right circle.
“This place was packed,” head coach Keller Sims said. “Probably the most packed I’ve seen it in a couple of years and our guys really fed off that. That helped us bring that energy and fight through it and just get one after another. Guys working hard, both dirty goals in front of the net and that’s the goals we need to score.”
After killing another penalty early in the middle stanza, sophomore defenseman Chris Yonce cashed in on a weak wrister from the left boards that squeaked through Miller for a 3-0 advantage.
The Razorbacks’ defensive play remained strong, but their offensive production slowed down over the game’s final 35 minutes. After averaging 10 goals per game over the last five contests, the Hogs’ three tallies were a bit of a disappointment for Sims and company.
“We had a couple of guys out tonight, so we had to shift up our lines,” Sims said. “So some guys playing together that only practiced together once or twice. You know, we’re an offensive team, we like to take chances and play aggressive. So I think you know, tomorrow we’ll have a better focus on the offensive side of the puck and hopefully score a couple more goals.”
The Razorbacks and Patriots squared off again Saturday afternoon, and Arkansas returned to its dominant ways, prevailing 12-1 and improving to 21-2 on the season.
The Ice Hogs are scheduled to return to action next weekend in Springfield, Missouri, for a two-game set against the Missouri State Bears. The following week, Kansas will visit Northwest Arkansas for the final series before the Mid-American College Hockey Association playoffs.