Flurries of snow and the hissing of skates marked the official return of the Jayhawks to home ice at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, MO. KU hosted the Creighton Bluejays on the weekend of October 27-28, a viable opponent as seen from previous seasons.
Coaches and players alike remained calm and cool as they stepped into the arena, but wasted no time when the puck dropped, with fast and physical play evident from their faceoffs to the very first goal of the night, a slap shot by #19 Reece Doty. More physicality and board action ensued as the game progressed with goals from #7 Grant Anderson and #18 Conor Ryan in the 1st period.
Sophomore goaltender Mstrong>Ben Smith showed confidence in his saves and positioning against the Bluejays’ few shots on net. Creighton managed to score 2 goals during the last two periods. However, goals from #12 Preston McConnell and #21 Alec Norton solidified the 5-2 victory for KU in the final period.
The Jayhawks greeted the second game of the weekend with significantly livelier skating and play, starting off with a goal from #28 Johann Steen as the team kept the puck in the offensive zone. #8 Brad Glass scored one as the game got more physical, forcing Creighton to rev up their defense. The second period saw the puck flying mostly near the Bluejays’ net. Successful shots from Engle, Manson, Ryan, Doty, Burgess, and Bockman lifted the Jayhawks up to an 8-1 lead by the end of the period, dazzling players and spectators alike.
Third period saw a significant rise in personality and force from both teams as McConnell added two more to the scoreboard, leading to a scuffle behind the Creighton pipes with 8 minutes left in the game. Tensions and expectations rose in the snow-covered Winter Wonderland of a rink by the end of the game, leaving KU with a stellar 10-1 win over the Bluejays and a heightened anticipation for the matchup against Nebraska the next weekend.
“We’re just happy to come out with 2 wins,” forward Reece Doty said. “We need to work on transition defense, our forecheck as well. We have a really skilled team, but there’s some system stuff we need to figure out too.”
“We have to be smart with the puck and blue lines, eliminate turnovers, get pucks deep.” Team Captain Brent Bockman said.
“Today we came out as a team,” head coach Andy McConnell said. “The key to Nebraska next week is simple hockey – no messing around, getting shots in the net.”
“It’s going to come down to who can play the more physical game and who can play better defense, they’ve got their systems down pat,” Doty said about the Huskers.
“Nebraska will definitely be a tougher team,” goalie Ben Smith said. “Hopefully we’ll put in, even more, effort and come out with a sweep.”