Last weekend, the UA club hockey team squared off against Central Oklahoma in a battle of top-10 teams at Tucson Arena.
Bayley Marshall called it “nerve-wracking,” and not just because of the stakes involved.
It was just last season, after all, that Marshall led Central Oklahoma to a 3-0 victory over the Wildcats in the same building. Marshall scored one goal that night on an assist from former teammate Regan Yew.
Marshall scored again last weekend, this time leading the Wildcats to a 1-0 victory over his former team with the assist from defenseman Matthew Hohl. The teams split the weekend series, after the No. 10 Bronchos had won 5-2 a night earlier.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats will host No. 25 Utah in a two-game series starting Saturday at Tucson Arena.
“Obviously, I think he was a little more excited” last weekend, UA coach Chad Berman said of Marshall facing his former team. “I think it was natural of him to get a little more up for those games.”
The Wildcats were riding a three-game win streak earlier this season when Arizona and Central Oklahoma met in October. The Bronchos got the best of UA that night, winning 3-0 and spoiling Marshall’s return to Arctic Edge Arena in Edmond, Oklahoma.
The Bronchos “gave us a beatdown,” Marshall recalled. “I was definitely looking for some revenge.”
The decision to relocate had less to do with hockey and more to do with the overall college experience. Marshall, an Illinois native, said he felt something was missing at Central Oklahoma.
“I wasn’t really loving the school there,” Marshall said. “I didn’t like the atmosphere. It was kind of small, sort of like a commuter school.”
The UA offered a bigger opportunity — and the chance for Marshall to play alongside someone special. His brother, Dawson, is a freshman on the UA hockey team. The brothers live together.
Despite the changes — and maybe because of them — Marshall is shining on the ice.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound junior leads the Wildcats in goals (18), assists (32), points (50), power-play-goals (nine) and game-winning-goals (four). Marshall has bonded with linemate Anthony Cusanelli, giving the Wildcats a 1-2 punch that few teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey League have. Cusanelli ranks second on the team, behind Marshall, in both goals (16) and assists (25).
“I’m a big believer that you need two star go-to players in this league to be successful.” Berman said. “The chemistry between the two is something that’s very rare to have that quick.”
Said Cusanelli: “He makes my job way easier.”
Marshall said he’s fitting in well at is new school. In fact, the UA — and Tucson — have been more than what he could have asked for.
“I love it. I’m having a blast,” Marshall said. “School’s been great, the boys are awesome and we’re having a good year, so it’s been awesome.”