Hocke

WVU celebrates after a goal on Pitt in the Backyard Brawl.

After starting the season with a series split again the Towson Tigers, the West Virginia hockey team is hard at work preparing for Mercyhurst.

The Mountaineers have not played since Sept. 16, when they defeated the Tigers 5-3 in Morgantown. WVU Head Coach A.J. Sturges anticipates that Mercyhurst will be a much faster team.

"Solid in the defensive zone," Sturges said. "Protect the front of the net, and just defending as a team is going to be very important."

WVU took a lot of penalties in the Towson series, which seemed to be the downfall in their season-opening loss .

Sturges was happy with the offensive output in the Towson series. The Mountaineers scored seven goals in just two games, while giving up six goals on the defensive end.

"It was a really good test for us," Sturges said. "It was a really great test for us as a team, emotionally as well."

Forward Eli Rivers scored two goals in the series against Towson and winger J.P. Sawyer assisted on two goals.

The goaltending will also be a factor in the games this weekend. Ryan Wickiser put in a good performance, allowing three goals on 25 shots, and Benjamin Zienty allowed three goals on 29 shots.

Mercyhurst is one of WVU’s rivals, which means that this game matters a lot to both teams, even though it is very early in the season.

"Conferences games, especially two early on, are everything," Sturges said.

WVU plays again Saturday evening against Duquesne in Morgantown. Coach Sturges expects the momentum to be high and for the team to be ready for both Mercyhurst and Duquesne.

"We feel good about where we are, and what we’re going to be able to do in our conference this season," Sturges said. "I think we have a team that is very well equip to handle that."

This will be the first game for Mercyhurst this season, who finished 7-5-2 in conference play last season. The Mountaineers finished 6-8 last season in conference play.

Friday’s game starts at 7 p.m. at the Morgantown Municipal Ice Rink.