Hockey loses to Metro State, bounces back to beat Utah Valley

By Jake Bullinger , Staff Writer

Although the Skatin’ Utes split their weekend games on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 against Metro State and Utah Valley, they showed signs of progress that might indicate a promising outlook for the future.

One of these signs was the play of freshman Andy Hill. It was only the young goalie’s second-career appearance Friday against Metro State, and he made a slew of difficult saves. Utah lost the game, but the loss certainly can’t be pinned on Hill.

Utah’s defense was scarce on Friday. The Utes played physically, but allowed Metro State 64 shots, with a great amount of them coming within close proximity of the goal. Hill allowed only three goals, and did so with the expected jitters of an inexperienced player.

“There was a bunch of nerves,” Hill said. “I was shaking through the second period.”

The game delivered the Utes a heartbreaking loss, as the deciding goal was netted with only 1 minute 17 seconds remaining in the contest.

“Everybody wants validation, and the best way to get validated is with a win and we did everything we needed to Friday…we just didn’t get validated with a win,” said head coach Jon Bertagnolli.

Even though Utah lost, Hill will be able to relax after his solid outing, as will his teammates after a relatively successful weekend in power play situations.

Ask any Ute, and he or she will tell you that Utah’s most problematic aspect of its offense has been the inability to score in power play situations. However, this weekend showed that perhaps Utah has found the cure to its power play malaise.

The Utes made personnel changes to their power play unit and the effect was noticeable during the weekend. Friday, the Utes did not score with tilted ice, but passed more effectively and created better scoring looks than they had all season.

“We had so many opportunities on our power play,” said forward Andrew Reed of the Metro State game. “We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Finally, the Skatin’ Utes were able to exploit a power play opportunity during Saturday’s 5-3 win against Utah Valley. Not only did forward Ian McKelvie score a power play goal in the second period, but it was preceded by a shorthanded goal from Riley Ellis.

“We’re definitely figuring it out,” Bertagnolli said. “We’ve changed the system up, the personnel up a little bit.”

Although the Utes found power play success unseen for a long time, Bertagnolli said Utah is still not “over the hump yet.”

The Utes remain at .500 with a 7-7 record after the weekend. It has been a tough stretch since their 5-1 start, but fundamental improvements are becoming more noticeable.

Utah enjoyed a bye over Thanksgiving and will use this week to prepare for the Rocky Mountain Jamboree in McCall, Idaho, starting Dec. 3.

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