Cool Cats hold off Dayton 4-3


The UK Wildcats take on the Dayton Flyers at Lexington Ice Center on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

On a night when charity was everywhere in the Lexington Ice Center, the home team had to earn everything.

UK hockey sold products off the ice, such as Ashley Judd posters and customized jerseys, in its ‘Hockey for Haiti’ campaign. The product on the ice was giving nothing in a 4-3 win over Dayton.

UK (20-9) found unexpected sources of offense throughout the night. While the first line was scoreless on the game, other players were able to find the back of the net. Defender Chris Hubbard bookended the scoring with two goals while forwards Sean Wormald and Nick Skuraton each added one to the scoreboard.

“We had input from other guys tonight,” UK head coach Rob Docherty said. “It was nice to see guys like Skuraton get in there. But that’s what it’s going to take. We’re going to need all four lines playing well.”

The trio had only scored a combined 21 goals in 28 games before Saturday’s contest.

“We’re a well-rounded team and can get goals from anyone,” defender Andrew Serres said. “We were all taking shots. The defense really helped out tonight and got themselves a couple goals.”

The players still weren’t completely happy with grinding out a win.  Multiple players were shaking their heads as they exited the ice after the game.  Dayton was a team UK expected to blow out on its home ice, forward Billy Glass said before the game. But the blowout never happened.

“This game didn’t need to be a one-goal victory,” Serres said. “It should have been five or six. We tend to play down to our opponents’ level. We can’t do that, especially this close to the end of the season. When we play good teams we won’t be able to raise our game when we need to.”

After Hubbard’s second goal put UK up 4-1 in the third period, it appeared the Cool Cats could coast to an easy victory. Instead of locking down defensively, UK allowed a quick goal in response and then allowed a goal with under a minute remaining in the game.

“We need to close out games better,” Wormald said. “Those last couple goals shouldn’t have happened. Especially that last one. We got greedy trying to get offensive and we got caught with just one player back helping out on defense.”

Penalties hurt both teams, limiting full-strength offensive opportunities. UK and Dayton split 22 penalties on the night equally. Full five-on-five hockey seemed rare by the time the buzzer sounded.

“It was mostly frustration penalties,” Docherty said. “It was chippy play, some stuff going on after the whistle. Playing Dayton tends to be ugly games, and that’s what it was tonight.”

Even more ugly was the 10-minute penalty for misconduct assessed to assistant captain Taylor Vit for throwing his stick while on the ice.

“It wasn’t exactly what you expect from a team captain, but everyone has frustrating nights,” said Serres, a captain himself. “He apologized in the locker room after the game.  He knew he was in the wrong.”

Despite the numerous power plays that stemmed from Dayton penalties, UK was able to take advantage of playing a man up only twice. With close games to be expected, UK has to get better at seizing opportunities when it has a man advantage, Wormald said.

“We’re not a finesse team anymore,” Wormald said. “We’re grinding, battling, crashing the net every night. And we can play that style. Tonight that style was on full display and we got the win.”