A No. 2 ranking is no small feat for Utah Valley hockey, but things can get better after this month.
Virtually clinching a spot in the national tournament in March is what is at stake when the Wolverines play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Western Classic.
It’s only November, but this month the team heads back to Colorado for games against No. 1 Colorado and a game against No. 3 Eastern Washington.
Utah Valley sitting at 10-0-3 before games against Denver and UNLV is ranked No. 2 in the season’s first rankings and it’s coming off a trip where they beat Colorado State 3-2 and drew with Colorado 3-3.
A rematch win against Colorado and a good showing at the ACHA Western Classic will set up the Wolverines in one of the top two spots.
If the team finishes in one of those spots, it will earn an automatic birth to nationals in Florida.
If Utah Valley wins the Western Classic at the end of this month, it likely won’t play another top-5 team the rest of the year.
"We talked about it on the bus (back from Colorado)," Utah Valley coach Matt Beaudry said. "This month is big for us. It will look good for us if we win. We won’t have to play those teams again, so long as we don’t slip up against one of the teams we should beat."
One reason for the success this year is goalie play. Jason Lindner and Colin Stebner have come in and performed at a high level.
"We knew ending last year goalie would be a critical position for us. It’s not just on the goalie, but it starts there. Guys can play with confidence knowing Jason and Colin are back there. I see them getting stronger as the season has gone on," Beaudry said.
The recent games against the Rams and the Buffaloes are signs Utah Valley has arrived. In just its third year, the Hockey team has a legitimate shot at making a successful run in the national tournament.
It’s ahead of schedule.
"I wanted to make this program successful as soon as possible. I thought maybe five years. I would have not said, ‘In three years, we will be like this.’ I would have not been that bold," Beaudry said.
The team returns to the Peaks Ice Arena for its final game of the fall schedule Dec. 8 against Weber State.
Nov. 16 against Utah, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 17 against Walla Walla, 8:30 p.m.