February 7, 2016
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Another PAC-8 Championship tournament is in the books and for the second straight year the Utah Utes are the PAC-8 Champions.
This year’s tournament featured the top six teams in the conference as determined by the KRACH computer rankings used by the conference for second year in a row.
The single elimination tournament began on Friday with two first round games. In the first game, the fourth seeded Washington State Cougars took on the fifth seeded USC Trojans in a game that saw Washington State jump out to an early lead. But the Trojans would find a way to come back and ended up holding on to beat the Cougars by a score of 6-4.
The second first round matchup featured a pair of rivals as the third seeded Washington Huskies took on the sixth seeded Oregon Ducks in an I-5 Cup rematch. Much like the series in the regular season, the Huskies would come out on top with a dominating 6-0 victory over the Ducks.
On Saturday the action kicked off with the first ever fifth place game in PAC-8 history as Washington State took on Oregon. Once again the Cougars would take the early lead but this time they would on to claim the victory as they beat the Ducks by a score of 6-4 to take fifth place in the tournament.
The second game of the day was the first semifinal as Washington took on Utah, who was the second seed for this year’s tournament. The defending champions took a lead in the first period and never looked back as the Utes cruised to an 11-4 victory to reach the championship game for the fifth time in a row.
The second semifinal introduced the number one seed into the tournament as the California Golden Bears took on USC for a spot in the championship game. The game remained scoreless until the second period when USC struck first to take a 1-0 lead. The Trojans would add another in the third and hold on to the end with an empty net goal to beat the Bears 3-1 and advance to their first championship game since 2010.
Sunday kicked off with the return of the third place game for the first time since 2012 as Washington took on California. In one of the best games of the tournament, both teams would share the lead on multiple occasions in a game that came down to the wire. Cal would have the last laugh as they scored two late goals to take the third place game by a score of 9-7.
The PAC-8 Championship Game featured two teams that won championships in their last appearances in the title game with Utah winning last year and USC winning in their last appearance in 2010. Utah would jump out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, and add to their lead in the second as they led 4-1 after forty minutes. USC would make a late comeback to cut it to a two goal game in the final minute but the Trojans would run out of time as the Utes would win the game 5-3 and capture the 2016 PAC-8 Championship.
With the win, the Utes now have three PAC-8 Championships in their five years as members of the conference. They are now tied for second all-time with Oregon for the most PAC-8 titles, as both teams still looking up at USC who leads the conference with eight titles.