Until the banners from old Mac Court are moved — and it’s unclear if they ever will be — there is only one Oregon Ducks team that plays underneath its own conference championship banners. Oregon’s club hockey team won the Pac-8 title three times between 2005 and 2009 but haven’t won it since then. In the time since the Ducks haven’t won a conference title, until this year they lost the I-5 Cup to Washington three straight times.
Last year the Ducks didn’t even participate in the postseason tournament because of an incredibly demanding schedule. In their last conference series of the year last season, the Ducks made a statement in easily beating the USC team that finished just ahead of the Ducks despite a much weaker schedule.
This year, the goals were clear. Beat Washington, and win the Pac-8. The Ducks accomplished the first, bringing the I-5 Cup back to Eugene by taking the season series against the Huskies 3-1. Now, they have their chance to accomplish the latter as they travel to Los Angeles for the Pac-8 Tournament.
“I think we have a very strong chance of coming out on top,” head coach Rich Salahor said. “We have to play our best game against teams like Utah and Washington, but we’re as good as anybody in that tournament.”
The Ducks haven’t forgotten about the circumstances that knocked them out of postseason play last year either.
“We’ve been ranked number one in the Pac-8 most of the season,” Salahor said. “So I want to end it that way. Show everybody that we should have been there last year and we’re gonna win it this year.”
The Ducks end the regular season second in the Pac-8, just behind Utah. Oregon and Utah had the same amount of wins and losses, but because one of Utah’s losses came in overtime — to the Ducks — it earned them a point in the Pac-8 standings.
Oregon closed out the regular season last weekend by sweeping Portland State, winning 9-2 on Friday night and 9-1 on Saturday night. The wide margins of victory were a blessing for the Ducks and allowed all four lines to get significant playing time and the top lines to get some extra rest.
The Ducks will open the Pac-8 Tournament against fifth seeded California.