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Score early and score often.
If the University of Wyoming club hockey team does that, Erik Blomberg believes the Cowboys will emerge as a force at the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division III Pacific Regional Tournament.
"We have to get on top early in every game," says Blomberg, a forward from Parker, Colo., who has risen to stardom in his rookie season at UW. "In the first five minutes of the game, we have to have at least one goal. That's what gets everybody pumped up, that's what gets the bench going and that's what gives us confidence."
He adds, "We're going to have a chance to win if we score early."
The Cowboys face off against the U.S. Air Force Academy in their regional opener Friday night at the Oakland Ice Center in Oakland, Calif. The top two finishers at the eight-team regional tourney will advance to the ACHA Division III National Tournament, March 12-15 in Rochester, Minn.
The region's top two teams, the University of Northern Colorado (26-0) and San Diego State University (23-1), already have earned automatic bids to nationals.
UW (11-7), which has split four games with the Falcons (15-6) this season, is peaking at the right time. The Cowboys have won five consecutive games since falling Jan. 25 to Border War rival Colorado State University, outscoring their opponents by a staggering 54-8 count.
"We're playing great as a team right now and doing all of the things we need to do to win," says senior forward Graham Barrett, a former Colorado prep standout who fronts UW with 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists). "We're definitely peaking at the right time, but it's the injuries that hurt us.
"If we didn't have the injuries," he adds, "everything would be perfect."
The Cowboys will be shorthanded in Oakland after losing senior forward Tad Bernet (Katy, Texas) to a separated shoulder in last weekend's sweep of the Colorado School of Mines. Bernet ranks third on the team, behind Blomberg and Barrett, with 11 goals.
Earlier this season, UW played without Jesse Gefroh, a senior forward from Douglas and one of the team's leaders, for several weeks. Gefroh, who was sidelined with a knee injury, has returned to the ice but is still working to get back into top playing shape.
"With Tad out, we're gonna have a short bench at regionals and I think that makes it even more critical for us to score early," says Blomberg, who has 17 goals and nine assists this season. "We need to score early and then use our size to wear ‘em down."
In addition to Air Force and UW, Northern Arizona University (15-5), Dordt College of Iowa (20-8), California State University-Northridge (12-7), the University of California-San Diego (9-7), the University of California-Davis (11-8) and Sacramento State University (7-7) will skate at the regional tourney.