Orion Olsen remembers the dark days.
During Olsen’s freshman year, the UA club hockey team dropped eight straight games to rival Arizona State.
Olsen has since witnessed the program’s turnaround, capped off by last weekend’s convincing sweep of ASU to clinch the Cactus Cup.
The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 4-1 Friday and 6-1 on Saturday at Tucson Arena. Arizona is 4-0 against ASU this season.
“We lost a lot of games to this team, but we kept fighting and stuck with it throughout the years and we have a team now that took it to them,” Olsen said. “We’ve got some more in the bag against them too.”
UA head coach Chad Berman said the weekend sweep was a turning point for the program.
“When I came into this, we were on a 34-game losing streak to (ASU). And here we are,” Berman said. “It’s well-deserved and these guys put in the work.”
Berman credited his senior class for creating a culture change within the program.
Arizona’s success over the weekend, however, came from top to bottom.
Friday, the Wildcats jumped out to a 3-0, first-period lead over the Sun Devils behind goals from Josh Larson, Anthony Cusanelli, and Justin Dungey.
Arizona added its fourth goal of the night late in the third period on a score by Chris Westlund.
It was a similar story Saturday night, as Arizona scored two first-period goals, one from Ethan Stahlhuth and another by Griffin Daye.
The Wildcats piled it on in the second period with a pair of goals from Larson and Tyler Griffith. Justin Plumhoff and Josh Dickison added scores to close out the 6-1 rout.
Nine different Wildcats netted goals over the weekend.
Both games were marked by a series of fights, penalties and ejections. Olsen, a defenseman, was tossed from both games.
“This is a heated rivalry. It’s been going on forever,” defenseman Sean Ozment said. “It’s a playoff atmosphere and a big stage for us.”
Arizona is 16-6 heading into a month-long hiatus for winter break. The team will return to action in January carrying significant momentum.
“When you come to a school it’s just about the crest on the front of your chest,” Berman said. “That’s what makes this really cool.”