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By By Natalie Dicou and By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The U hockey club heads into its busiest weekend of the season thus far as it faces off against the Jr. Wildcats at home on Friday then travels to Logan to take on Utah State on Saturday.

The Utes will go to battle without two of their starting forwards, leading scorer Mike Wilcox and fellow scoring threat Brett Dowden. Wilcox is en route to Bakersfield, Calif., where he will be testing his physical limits in a six-mile obstacle course with the Navy ROTC. Dowden, a grad student, will be giving a presentation on bioengineering in Atlanta.

First up are the Jr. Wildcats, a traveling 18-and-under team that is composed of some of the most talented youth players in the state.

U forward Parker Phipps is a former Jr. Wildcat. He joined up when he was 16 and played with the elite team for three years before coming to the U. Phipps predicts that five or six Jr. Wildcat players will be members of the U hockey team next year. The game is free to the public and begins at 8:45 p.m. at the Steiner Ice Rink.

Saturday’s rematch at USU will be a tougher test, as the Utes revisit the site where they were handed their most brutal defeat of the season, an 18-3 decision that opened the year.

If Wilcox and Dowden weren’t leaving town, the game would provide a meaningful gauge of how much progress the Utes have made this season since the initial 15-goal slaughter. But without two of Utah’s strongest players, it’ll be difficult for head coach Bob Wilkinson to come to any solid conclusions about how far his team has come.

“(Utah State has) a great college hockey atmosphere,” Wilkinson said.

Thousands of fans made it out to the Utah/USU game four weeks ago and boisterously sang the Aggie fight song after each of USU’s 18 goals.

The Aggies are an established club program with overwhelming fan support, and Wilkinson is realistic about Utah’s chances in Logan.

“If you emphasize winning, I think the guys are a little more stressed on the ice,” Wilkinson said. “(There’s) a little more pressure on them, and then their hands are tighter and the puck bounces and they’re not relaxed.”

The weekend’s doubleheader will be a test of Utah’s overall fitness.

“It’ll be tough to go back to back but we’ll do all right,” Phipps said.

The game is at USU and begins at 8 p.m.

Kim Peterson

Utah’s Brett Dowden finds a crease against the UVSC defense during the Utes’ 7-3 loss to the Wolverines last weekend.