UA club hockey coach Chad Berman approached the 2017-18 season with two goals in mind.
The first goal is to win each week — basically, to come out on top in the majority of games the Wildcats play.
Goal No. 2 is to win the Cactus Cup, beating rival Arizona State.
The 15th-ranked Wildcats are hitting the first goal more weeks than not. They can check off the second one entirely with a sweep of No. 24 ASU this weekend. The teams will play Friday and Saturday at Tucson Arena; both games start at 7:30 p.m.
Arizona has already beaten ASU twice this season, once in Tucson and once in Tempe. The Wildcats outscored their rivals by a combined 14-8 in the pair of wins.
“It’s only two games and it was early in the year, but we always get up for those games,” Berman said. “I think the key is to make sure we’re winning the small battles.”
Berman wants to see tighter discipline from his group this go-around as well as improved defense.
Where the Wildcats lack defensively, they make up on the offensive end.
Arizona (14-6) is averaging nearly five goals, with scoring contribution from all over.
First-year forward Anthony Cusanelli leads the team with 22 goals, which is the most of any freshman in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Five other Arizona skaters have recorded six or more goals this season.
“It’s a long list and that’s the beauty of this program,” Berman said. “We’re at a point now where the depth has drastically improved.”
Berman also credited his three goaltenders, who collectively are hovering around a .900 save percentage.
Arizona is much healthier than this time a year ago, according to Berman, and that’s after a grueling schedule in October and November.
The Wildcats played seven consecutive weekend series at one point with trips from Gilbert to Colorado to Missouri.
Arizona got some much needed rest the past two weeks, particularly over Thanksgiving break when some of the players went back to their respective homes.
“Coming off a week off, it was kind of slow at the start,” Cusanelli said. “We started to get going as the week went on and we’ll be ready for this weekend.”
The rivalry series marks the last two games of the 2017 calendar year. The Wildcats won’t return to the ice until the first weekend of January when they host Grand Canyon University.
“If we can get two wins this weekend, we can start looking bigger,” Berman said. “Obviously we want to get to the national tournament and make a run, but you don’t do that in December, you do that in March.”