Felton Shines, Gators Fall Just Short in 4-3 Overtime Loss (DIII)

Written by Marinna Stopa

Gator goaltender Sophie Felton stole the show late Friday night against the University of South Florida, doing her best to get the Gators DIII team back into the winning column.

 Both teams came out playing hard and fast, with plenty of breakaways and hits throughout the game that would wake up just about any hockey team.

Initially, USF had a lot of offensive zone time, putting some early shots on Felton and the Gator defense, but Florida was able to quickly match the energy.

Forward Jonah Schulman was able to pierce through the pressure with a breakaway of his own, forcing an off-guard USF team to commit a penalty to prevent the first goal of the game.

Although nothing showed up on the scoresheet as a result, the power play injected some energy and motivation into both teams, especially after Felton made a couple of huge stops on Clayton Sanders, the penalized USF player, right after the penalty expired.

Shortly after, a Gator providing a goal-front screen was crosschecked by USF’s Yuriy Nazarko, pushed right into the Bulls goalie Garrett Trotman. There was a bit of confusion on the call, as USF thought the penalty should have gone to the Gators for Goalie Interference, but the referees ruled he was illegally pushed into the goalmouth and the Gators went back on the man-advantage.

UF had a much better powerplay the second time around. The Gators were able to keep the puck in the USF zone for most of the two minutes, putting some great pressure on the Bulls’ goalie. Still nothing came of it after two minutes with the second man advantage situation of the period.

 The first frame was relatively quiet following the second USF penalty, at least until the last five minutes of play, when Florida would finally open the scoring for the game.

Center Captain Xavier Morris stripped a USF forward at the top of the center, set up, and launched a shot to the top right shelf, beating the goalie cleanly. The entire Florida bench and all Gator fans in attendance celebrated, hoping this was a sign of the team righting their ship and getting back to their early-season winning form.

 UF would get another man advantage opportunity before the period expired, their third of the night already. The power play unit still did not click, and the USF penalty kill, once again, proved dangerous, with one of the most threatening offensive chances of the power play coming from a South Florida penalty killer just as the two minutes dwindled down.

The lone Bull forward ripped a shot off the post. Much of the crowd and skaters on both teams were unable to decipher if it had gone in, but the puck stayed out, trickling across the goal line. Thankfully, a UF player cleared down the ice and out of harm’s way quickly, so play was able to resume with the Gators still up by one.

Nonetheless, the Gators went into the second period with a 1-0 lead.

With a penalty handed to center Makena Winch as the first period winded down, Florida had to finish out over ninety seconds of their first penalty against to start the second.

Shortly after successfully killing off the shortened penalty, Winch came out of the box and, with forward Samuel Ryan, was able to create a great 2-on-1 breakaway chance, with Trotman able to make a great blocker save on Ryan’s shot to keep his team in the game.

Eight minutes into the second frame, defenseman Maxwell Carter got caught tripping a South Florida player and was sent to the box, giving UF its second penalty of the period. The Bulls were able to capitalize on the man advantage opportunity and tie up the game.

 On the power play, Felton faced the first shot of the game that she had no real chance at getting, which was remarkable considering some of the acrobatic saves she had been making throughout the game.

However, Florida would regroup and respond quickly, with defenseman Dylan Morton getting his fifth goal of the season off a failed clearing attempt by the USF goaltender. Instead of sending it to his own player as intended, Trotman shot it right to Morton, who was able to shoot it at the goalie, collect his own rebound, and tuck it away on the second try.

Having taken the lead back, the Gator defense continued laying out in front of shots, using their bodies and sticks to stop any shot they could from reaching Felton.

Maxwell Carter and Chris Broski especially were both all over the ice, acting as extensions of the goalie while simultaneously trying to score at the other end, somehow all at once. Their efforts seemed to have paid off, as UF led going into the third, 2-1.

Just over a minute into the third period, UF was given its fourth power play of the night. Less than halfway through the man advantage, Morris was able to cash in off a tip in front of the net, and with the Florida power play finally breaking through, the team’s captain was able to extend their teams lead to two with 18 minutes to go in the third.

But the joy of the powerplay breaking through would be short-lived: a mere 57-seconds later, USF would get one right back, as forward Colin Smargon’s slapshot soared right over Felton’s glove.

The fatigue was evident in the third period, as head coach Brad Christman began primarily rolling out the top two forward and defensive lines, giving them minimal time to recover before hopping back on the ice.

Cooper Kappeler still put on a show, using some nice toe-drags and jukes to make USF defenders look silly. Unfortunately, despite his some of his great efforts, he was unable to find the back of the net.

With 4 minutes and 47 seconds left to go, USF would tie the game up, knocking the wind out of an already tired Gators team. Following the Bulls’ goal, both teams seemed to play a bit more conservatively, seemingly okay with finishing the contest in extra time.

During the 3-on-3 overtime, the Gators and Bulls went back and forth down the ice, fully utilizing all the extra space with alternating odd-man breaks.

In the end, the Gators were unable to stave off the Bulls comeback, as USF center Mark Olson scored just under three minutes into overtime.

Despite the result, the team showed some great signs of improvement, with its first game of 2023 proving to be much closer than the last couple of matches entering Friday night. Though the win and the full two points would have been optimal, the team still picked up a point with the overtime loss. The results keeps them ahead of fourth-place Florida Tech, who picked up 3 out of 4 points this weekend against ERAU to pull level with the UF DIII squad, but have played 3 more games than the Gators.

The University of Florida DIII Gators won’t be in action again for another two weeks, where they will meet the Florida Southern College Water Moccasins in Lakeland on February 3rd and 4th.

Edited by Makena Winch

Gators Division III Fall Recap + Preview for Upcoming Game vs DIII USF Bulls (Friday, January 20th @9:45 pm)

Written by Marinna Stopa

There is hope for better days ahead for the Florida Gators Division III hockey team.

Starting off the season with four straight wins, the future was looking bright for a team that already surpassed its previous seasons’ total wins.

In these first four matches, the team outscored Embry-Riddle, USF and Tennessee by a margin of 27-14.

The brick wall that was David Stenzel, who won two of these four games, posted an astounding 0.959 save percentage as he stopped 70 of the 73 shots he faced in these two contests.

Unfortunately, for him and for his team, the netminder was injured in early October during practice, sidelining him for a good while. Though the timeline has been hazy, the team is hoping to have the netminder back on the bench by early February

This occurred just days before the two games against the powerhouse that is the University of Tampa (DIII) club team, who had been, and still are, undefeated.

After two dominant performances by the Spartans, the Gators couldn’t regroup and regain the edge they had sharpened to start.

To follow were a pair of games against the Florida Institute of Technology and one against Florida Southern, where the Gators were collectively outscored 28-10.

But that was last year.

It’s a new year (literally).

You know what they say – new year, new you.

Stenzel recovers from his injury and is expected to be back on the bench in early February. With over two months passing between the Gators most recent 10-4 loss to FIT and their next game at home against USF this Friday, January 20th, the team will be looking to regroup and return to their early-season form.

With junior assistant captain Owen Barno and freshman Dylan Morton tied for the team lead with 8 points on the season, and freshman Athan Bonavita and junior Xavier Morris not too far behind, the Gators are hoping to revitalize their offense, which averaged nearly seven goals a game in their first four wins, but have only averaged just over two during their five-game losing streak.

The Gators are still sitting in a good spot – third of eight in D3 standings– despite their skid. In the College Hockey South (CHS) and American Division of the CHF, they sit at 17th and 27th respectively.

The penalty kill has been a huge sore spot so far for the team, with around ⅓ shots of opponents’ power-play shots reaching the back of the net. With a 63% success rate, the Gators kill would be dead last when compared to NHL penalty-killing percentages.

Similarly, in situations where the Gators have the man advantage, the team has posted a measly 16% success rate.

On a somewhat better note, when short-handed, the Gators have been scored three goals in only nine games. This means that when they’re down a man, they have had a 12.5% chance of scoring a goal despite their handicap. In comparison, they have only allowed two shorthanded goals.  

What all of this means is that there is certainly room for improvement in all facets.

The rest of the season (the next five games) are all rematches against previous opponents – USF, Florida Southern, and FIT –  giving the Gators the opportunity to show what they are truly made of.

UF DIII vs. USF DIII Preview

            The University of Florida Division III Gators are ready to get the year started off in the best way possible – a big, season-reviving win.

            Despite coming into Friday’s contest on a five-game losing streak, with the last game played being over two months ago against the Florida Institute of Technology, there is plenty to be excited about with this next game against the University of South Florida.

            Two UF players have active point streaks, including forward Owen Barno, who has six goals in his last three games.

            In the Gators’ two meetings against the Bulls this season, they’ve outscored their opponent by a 10-5 margin, with 13 different UF players getting onto the scoresheet.

            The Tampa-based Bulls Ice Hockey team is currently 24th in CHS and 6th amongst Division III clubs with a 2-5 record.

In contrast to UF, USF started its season with five straight losses, including three blowout losses to the University of Tennessee, University of Tampa and Florida Southern College. Although the team hasn’t played since before Halloween, they are on a two-game win streak, with an 8-2 win against FIT and a 5-4 win over Embry-Riddle.

A few of players to watch for the Bulls are:

  • #14 LW Carter Sullivan:
    • 12 points (7G, 5A) in 7 Games Played
    • Leads the team in penalty minutes (18)
    • Leads the team in power play assists (2)
    • One hat trick
  • #8 C Mark Olson:
    • 11 points (3G, 8A) in 7 Games Played
    • Leads the team in assists (8)
  • #23 C Colin Smargon:
    • 8 points (4G, 4A) in 7 Games Played
    • One hat trick
  • #18 RW  Logan Solorzano
    • 5 points (2G, 3A) in 4 Games Played

            The game will be played this Friday (1/20) at 9:45 PM.

            Come out to the Community First Igloo to support the Gators at home!

Edited by Makena Winch

BACK-2-BACK: Gators Repeat as Thrasher Cup Champions

            Written by Marinna Stopa

            After two tough and thrilling contests at the Savannah Hockey Classic, the University of Florida Gators are Thrasher Cup champions for the second year in a row.

            GAME 1: UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA (Win)

From the first shift of Friday night’s game against the University of Georgia, it was apparent the Gators were not going to return to Gainesville without some hardware.

Although the scoresheet doesn’t show it, the first six minutes was all Florida. No matter what Georgia did, no matter how many times they dumped it down the ice to get fresh legs on the ice, the UF defensemen were able to immediately return the puck to the UGA end and put intense pressure on Georgia goalie Ryan Testino.

It took nearly eight minutes for Georgia’s first offensive stint to develop, but they capitalized on the opportunity and put it behind UF goalie Mason Burdick to take a one-goal lead on just their second shot of the game. 

This quickly put a damper on a rolling Gator team, who seemed to skate on their heels for the next couple of minutes in response and allowed Georgia to maintain momentum in the UF zone.

Following some heavy, and questionable, hits by the Icedogs, Georgia’s David Eberly laid a hit on Parker Mara, cross-checking him straight in the numbers, sending him into the boards and onto the ice.

After a tense ten or so seconds, Mara recovered, but the hit seemed to light a much-needed fire under the Gators.

Although it took seven minutes and a separate tripping call on Georgia, Vaclav Prospal, in his first game of the season, would finally get Florida on the board after a scramble in front of the net. On just his first shift back after the hit, Parker Mara, as well as Matthew Brkljacic, assisted the game-tying goal.

The second period opened up much faster.

With Connor Nicholson parked in front of the net, a pin-point pass from Nick McCann gave the captain an easy tap-in, giving the Gators their first lead of the night less than five minutes into the second.

Later, with less than seven to go in the period, two off-setting slashing calls on McCann and Georgia’s Lleyton Poole resulted in a four-on-four opportunity, clearing up more room for both teams to work with.

Just four seconds in, Luke Braun would get his first of the weekend off a pass by Quinn Shepard (who, like Prospal, was also making his Gator hockey debut), scoring a goal largely dependent on the pure perseverance by #9 to get it past the Georgia goalie.

An Icedog power play late in the second period resulted in a Georgia goal, after Lleyton Poole ripped a shot from the blue line, which, aided by traffic in front of the net, beat Burdick and got the Georgia team within one entering the last period.

The final frame put a spotlight on the players’ fatigue, evident by messy passes, hits fueled by frustration, and a lack of shot attempts, where both sides combined for a mere eight shots on net.  

With twelve to go in the game, Matt Bigda would bring the game to a tie off an insane tip in front of the net, putting the puck in the Gator net. The original shot from Alexander Strauss was nowhere close to going in.

A boarding call on Prospal a minute later put a depleted Florida team in a less-than-favorable position.

 However, Brukljacic showed the Enmarket Arena crowd of nearly 4,500 fans that the Gators did not come to lose. With a goal made on a shorthanded breakaway followed by an iconic celebration, made the Savannah crowd mirror one at Amalie Arena.

The game ended in wild, stunning fashion, as Georgia NEARLY scored, but was ultimately one millisecond too late, making the Georgia fan-dominated crowd go crazy.

Ruled no goal immediately, it’s safe to say the Gators were relieved and the Icedogs enraged.

For whatever reason, the newly implemented video review cameras stationed at various points of the ice, used for similar situations for the home ECHL team, the Savannah Ghost Pirates, were not on.

All the referees and fans could go off was the image provided by the goal camera displayed on the Jumbotron. Another indicator was the lights behind the net, that turned red to signify the end of the period, rather than green to indicate a goal had been scored.

Whilst the stripes conversed, the two fired-up teams exchanged some words (and punches), eventually worsened by a reaffirmation of the original call on the ice by the refs, declaring Florida the rightful winners.

GAME 2: FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY

Coming off the massive win the night before, the Gators were ready to keep the ball (or puck) rolling against in-state rivals Florida State University.

Following tradition, the team brought out a two-year-old alligator named Aly from the North Georgia Wildlife Park for warmups and the anthem.

Additionally, freshman Jackson Choi skated around in a gator onesie overtop his uniform, complete with a long tail and osteoderms (the bony bumps along an Alligator’s back). He quickly stripped on the bench prior to the beginning of the game, giving himself enough time to return to the ice and take the opening faceoff.

Saturday’s game started on a much better note than the previous, with the first Gator goal coming a little over six minutes in, as a shot by Mara banked in off a stray FSU skate.

A minute later, Max Thellab would take a shot from a tough angle and beat FSU netminder Matthew Silliman’s glove side, giving Florida a commanding two goal lead heading into the second.

Play was contained entirely in the Florida State zone for the whole first period, with the Seminoles goalie being the only reason the Tallahassee-based team was within arm’s reach.

FSU came out of the locker room energized in the second period, evident in the team’s first goal, scored by James McGovern less than 30 seconds in.

However, the Gators just continued where they left off in the first period in response to the early FSU goal, with another goal by Braun, his second of the weekend and first of the game, following a very similar setup to the second UF goal.

With seven minutes to go, McCann, assisted by Nicholson and Brkljacic, once again put it past Silliman’s glove hand side. Off the very next faceoff, seemingly before FSU’s skaters knew play had resumed, Evan Edwards scored, finishing the period with a 5-1 score.

Braun would score his second of the game and the last Gator goal of the weekend thirteen minutes into the third, with assists from Quinn Shepard and Joshua Weinstein.

With his two-goal performance, Braun was named the player of the game and was honored with a gold MVP jersey.

            As the Florida state showoff was the first match of the night, the Gators had to wait for the winner of the following game against the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology to know if they were Thrasher Cup champs for the second year in a row.

            Coming into play Saturday night, GT had won its previous game against FSU, and Georgia had obviously been bested by the Florida Gators, both on Friday night. With a win against its own in-state rivals, the Yellow Jackets could have potentially taken home the cup themselves, depending on the tie-breaker variables, the first of which was goal differential.

            Despite the odds being heavily in Georgia’s favor, with the Icedogs having won all three of the previous matches against Tech throughout the season by a margin of 14-5, the Gators were subjected to a real nail-biter. The contest was close all the way to the final second, with UGA picking up a 2-1 win despite a last-minute goal and continued pressure from Georgia Tech all the way to the buzzer.

            With that, the University of Florida Gators completed their conquest to repeat as champions and emerged this weekend as the 2023 Savannah Classic Champions!

            Alongside being given the Thrasher Cup for the team to parade around the ice, Matthew Brkljacic was awarded the Greg Stathis trophy, given to the most valuable player throughout the tournament.

            With its two wins, the team has moved up to sixth overall in the CHS, one point behind the University of Alabama, with three games in hand.

            The next two games are against the undefeated University of Tampa in Tampa, at the Clearwater Ice Arena, about a 2.5-hour drive from UF.

            1/27/23: Friday at 8:30 PM, available to stream here.

            1/29/23: Sunday at 5:00 PM, available to stream here.

Edited by Makena Winch

Gators Hockey: Season Results (So Far)

*This article details the Men’s Gator Ice Hockey Club Division II Team and their results from the Fall 2022 semester. A similar article dedicated to the club’s Division III Team will be coming out soon

By: Marinna Stopa

The Florida Gators hockey team has all but proven they are nothing like their last season shadow so far. Sitting at 16th in the CHF National Division, it’s safe to say the 2022-23 season is off to a fantastic, promising start.

Thirteen games in, the Florida Gators have a 9-2-2 record, good for 8th in the College Hockey South (CHS) division. In comparison, at this point of the season last year, their record was almost the complete opposite, a measly 4-8-1.

The season has been competitive and intense from the start, opening with an away game at Embry-Riddle in early September.

Despite strong starts by the team, made possible by incredible individual efforts — most notably of freshman Nicholas Ho, Jackson Choi, and senior Parker Mara, who all scored the opening goal in the season’s first three games — the Gators struggled to escape relative mediocrity.

In their first six games, the team consistently alternated between wins and losses, finishing the first half of the season 3-1-2.

Of the four losses so far, three came in these first six games. These four losses include: two OT losses against ERAU and FAU, a hard fought 6-5 loss to USF, and a 6-2 loss away at Tennessee.

However, the Gators have yet to lose two in a row.

Both of the aforementioned OT losses were avenged by 4-1 and 5-4 wins against ERAU and FAU respectively. Following the loss to USF, the Gators proceeded to blow the Bulls out of the water with a dominating 10-2 performance. After the loss to Tennessee, UF bounced right back with a 6-3 home win against Lynn, starting a three-game win streak.

That streak would end with an OT loss to FAU, but the team got right back on track once more with a 5-4 OT victory of their own against Florida Atlantic the next day, which has since sparked a four-game win streak. They enter the Savannah Invitational this weekend riding this four-game win streak, which they hope to extend, and then some.

The team has outscored its opponents 82 to 45, placing them at seventh in the division in goal differential. The large margin has been aided by three blowout performances, in which the team scored ten or more goals in one game –including the previously mentioned 10-2 thrashing of USF, as well as back-to-back victories over Miami, which ended as 14-6 and 11-2 decisions.

Almost half of the team has reached the double-digit point threshold already, with Captain Connor Nicholson leading the team at 22 points.

The power play is sitting at a 28.8% success rate, with Gators scoring 17 goals with 59 opportunities so far. Relative to the NHL, the Gator’s power-play conversion rate would be good for second-best in the league, bested by only the Edmonton Oilers (29%).

On the flip side, they have given up 6 shorthanded goals, making for a 10% rate.

On the penalty kill, the team has successfully killed off penalties 82.8% of the time so far, giving up only 10 goals against 58 penalties taken. If this was the NHL, that would be good enough for seventh in the league.

Though the Gators have much to hold their head high about as the team travels to Savannah, it will take everything they have to defend their title as the Thrasher Cup Champions.

Despite struggles last season, the previous Gator team was able to pick up two upset wins at the tournament to secure the title. This time around, expectations are much higher: it’s fair to say anything less than repeating as Thrasher Cup Champions would be considered a let-down. They open the tournament Friday at 8:30 PM at Enmarket Arena with a game against the Georgia Bulldogs, who have won all of their last 10 games, last losing a contest on October 2nd, 2022.

Edited by Makena Winch

 

Gators Put Up 25 Goals in Pair of Victories Against Hurricanes

By: Marinna Stopa

This weekend had everything a Gator hockey  fan could ask for.

In their two games against Miami, the University of Florida combined for 25 goals , eleven players with multi-point games, four hat tricks, two fights (and ejections), and one DIY jersey – really gets me into the Christmas spirit.

From the opening faceoff Saturday afternoon, it was clear the Gators came to play. Goalie Mason Burdick had a front row seat to an absolutely dominating performance, where his team kept most of the play in the Miami zone.

It took a mere four minutes for the first goal of the weekend to find the back of the net, but it was a sick cross ice pass from Martin Raynov to Josh Weinstein that made it happen. From then on, the goals just kept coming.

Two and a half minutes later, a pass from Max Thellab allowed a speedy Jackson Choi to crash the net and slide the puck underneath the pads of Miami goalie Ethan Gany.

Thirty seconds later, a snapshot gave Tom Walker his first goal of what would turn out to be a hat trick performance.

One downside of Saturday’s game was the rare mistakes the Gators made often resulted in a goal for the opposing team. This is exactly what happened when a defensive breakdown allowed Miami forward Guntram Weissenberger to walk right down the middle and go top shelf for his first goal of the game at the halfway point of the first period.

One more goal, Bohdi Duncan’s second of the season, would give the University of Florida a demanding 4-1 lead going into the middle frame.

John Coltellino would get the primary assist, his final point as a Florida Gator before he graduates at the end of the fall semester.

Three goals in less than fifty seconds to start the second period, coming from Choi, Máté Imre, and Thellab stunned the Canes and the crowd.

Down 7-1 only four minutes into the second, Weissenberger scored on a delayed penalty to Josh Shraiberg. This cooled down a sizzling Gator team, who didn’t score for another twelve minutes, the longest scoring drought of the weekend.

Weissenberger then completed his own hat trick on a breakaway chance, cutting the UF lead to four.

This didn’t stay long, as Choi deflected a shot from Luke Braun sixteen seconds later, completing his hat trick.

Attempting to put the entire team on his back, Weissenberger got his fourth and final goal of the game after Florida forward Walker whiffed on a shot on the power play, giving the winger yet another breakaway that ended in the back of the net.

However, Walker made up for it half a minute later with a power play goal of his own.

Thellab would then score again fifteen seconds after the penalty expired.

With 3.3 seconds left to go in the period, Walker tapped the puck into the net, seemingly surprising himself and everyone around him, completing his first hat trick.

From here on, all Gator goals were just gravy on the mashed potatoes.

To start the third, Thellab completed his own hat trick off a shot made from the right side point.

Raynov would score nine minutes later, followed by a heated fight between Zach Zelmanski and Christopher Kourgelis, which earned them both ejections from the game.

 Ryan Maziarka would get his first point of the season, a goal as a result of a great passing play with Weinstein and Imre.

Two Miami players would score the final goals of the game, making the final tally a consolatory 14-6.

Miami seemed to be more awake for the noon contest on Sunday, carrying over their physical presence from the day before.

This was no challenge for the Gators though, who also carried over their offensive dominance as well as an improved defensive presence.

Thellab would begin the scoring spree less than three minutes in, with a pass from Choi coming from across the goalie and right into his wheelhouse.

Between this first goal and the next, it seemed like Miami finally found their footing, spending a relatively long time in the Florida zone, but had nothing to show for it.

Alas, halfway through the first period, a pass from Connor Nicholson gave Braun an opportunity to make the score 2-0 and humble what little confidence their opposition had.

The first and only penalty of the period came a little while later, giving the Gators ample time in the scoring zone that proved fruitful less than half a minute after the penalty expired. It was then that Maziarka got his second point of the weekend, passing the puck to captain Nicholson, who dished it off to Evan Edwards for a wide open net.

Two more goals would be scored by the Gators by the end of the first frame, the fourth of the period being Raynov’s second of the season, coming from a pass from Shraiberg, who took it around the net to the defensemen parked right out front of the goalie. The fifth was Braun’s second of the period, a quick pass from Nicholson, his third assist of the period, to Jacob Horwitz and the center finishing it off.

The second period got off to a quick start with a skilled passing play between Shraiberg, Braun and Weinstein, who put it in the net for his first goal of the game.

Ten minutes later Miami gained some life off a goal from Declan Ross, a wrap-around pass coming from Jaret Fensterstock.

However, the Gators quickly recovered, with Edwards getting his second goal of the game and Braun getting his fourth point with the assist.

Less than five minutes later Weinstein would get his second of the period, an unassisted goal where he was able to beat the Miami defense and skate straight in front of the goalie and flick it in.

Shraiberg would then get his third point of the game with an unassisted goal of his own, this time on the power play with less than two minutes to go.

Weinstein completed his hat trick, the fourth Gator to do so of the weekend, a minute and forty seconds into the third period, once again flying past the defense and getting a shot off his backhand.

Four minutes later, Horwitz, in his handmade jersey (he supposedly left the other one in the dryer back in Gainesville), got the second power play goal of the game after a slashing call on Miami’s Fensterstock.

On the very next play, Zelmanski would get into his second fight of the weekend, this time following laying a hit to the head of a Miami player. Hurricane John Immello then speared him in retaliation, sparking the scuffle. Both players were ejected with fourteen minutes to go in the final period.

The final goal of the game would be scored short-handed, a breakaway for Miami’s Kourgelis, making the final tally 11-2.

These two games (turned offensive clinics), cap off the Gators last games of 2022. The team will go into the second half of the season with a 9-4-0 record, good enough for 8th place in the College Hockey South division.

The next time the Gators are in action will be at the highly anticipated Savannah Hockey Classic, where they look to win the Thrasher Cup for the second year in a row.

In Savannah, they will face off against the University of Georgia Bulldogs Friday, January 13th at 8:30 PM, against Florida State University Saturday, January 14 at 5:30 PM.

Tickets for Friday range from $12 to $60 and can be purchased HERE.

Tickets for Saturday range from $12 to $60 and can be purchased HERE.

Edited by Makena Winch

**NOTE: Certain statistics within this article contradict those provided by the College Hockey Federation’s documentation. As our stats come from a first-person scorekeeper present at the games, we’ve decided to include our statistics rather than those provided by CHF** 


Gators Run a Tired Knights Team out of their Castle

 

By Marinna Stopa  

Sunday’s matinee game saw nine different Gator players put points on the board in their dominant showing against UCF, with Jacob Horwitz and Luke Braun both having three point afternoon outings.

The Knights group, which was playing their last of three games in 48-hours, were no match for a well-rested Florida Gators team still hot after their tough series split with FAU last weekend. Their first two games of the weekend were a split against the ERAU Eagles. The second, a 4-2 loss, came a mere 19-hours before they were set to face off against UF.  

The first period got off to a quick start, with Evan Edwards seventh goal of the season coming just a minute after the opening faceoff. An incredible effort by Zach Zelmanski to get a pass to the front of the net while on his stomach set up an easy deflection over the left shoulder of UCF goalie Jackson Barton.  

Less than 90 seconds later, Jacob Horwitz scored his first of the game and third of the season, a shot from the far left point that cleanly beat the goalie with no traffic in front of the net. At this point of the game, the Gators had scored their first two goals on their first two shots, while the Knights had barely touched the other side of the ice.  

Play would even out a little, with the next goal coming a long five-minutes later, giving Josh Shraiberg his first point of the game and first goal of the season. Luke Braun did a full revolution around the net before dishing it to the freshman, who tapped it in to make the score 3-0 with just over 11 minutes to go in the first.  

Braun then decided he wanted a goal of his own two and a half minutes later. Coasting down the middle of the ice, he put away a heads-up pass from Joshua Weinstein from behind the net. It was his sixth goal of the year.  

At this point, interim Head Coach Shane O’Donnell called an early timeout in hopes of stopping the bleeding, with his team now down four with eight minutes left to go in the first. This seemed to work, with no more UF goals being tallied for the rest of the period and both a strong penalty kill and power play keeping the Gators at bay.  

After a strong power play by the Knights following a slashing call on Evan Edwards, goalie Nathan Shields came up with a massive breakaway save on Anthony Sciorinto, keeping his shutout campaign against his old team intact.  

The second period was much more relaxed than the previous, with a couple of penalties being called against both teams, with nothing to show for it on either side. Traffic in front of the net and a quick pass from forward Nathaniel Zhivotovsky allowed Max Weinstock to spin around and deceive Shields, finally getting UCF on the board nearly halfway into the game.  

A couple more penalties were assessed before the next goal, including one from UCF freshman Nicholas Sheehan in his second shift of his collegiate career – an unsportsmanlike conduct after he snowed Shield with ten minutes to go in the second. Pro Tip: Don’t snow the goalie.  

With twenty seconds left in the middle frame, a shot from the point from Horwitz hit a group in front of the net, going off Connor Nicholson and eventually Nick McCann to beat the goalie and make it 5-1 at the end of the period.  

Forwards Thomas Zamba and Max Weinstock were everywhere on the ice for the Knights, consistently giving the depleted team some signs of life.  

The final frame began with a roughing call on Zelmanski, his 14th penalty of the season.  

Seven minutes in, Horwitz got his second of the game, a rising shot from the short side point that cleanly beat the goalie, with the assist going to freshman Jackson Choi.  

Four more penalties would come before the next and final goal of the game, including another to Zelmanski and a delay of game against Tom Walker, who was wearing the wrong jersey with a player that wasn’t on the lineup.  

To finish off the game, Zelmanski got his second goal of the season and second point of the game off a cross-ice pass from Evan Edwards. Using his hockey IQ to his advantage, he waited till the goalie committed to his position, then shoveled it behind him and into the net to seal off the game.  

The final score would be a 7-1 Gators win in which the result never seemed to be in doubt. 

Your Florida Gators will take a couple weeks off for Thanksgiving break, before their last two games of the year, a weekend series against Miami at home on December 3rd at 4:15 PM and December 4th at 12:45 PM.  

Edited by Makena Winch

Gators Split Pair of Overtime Contests Against FAU

By Marinna Stopa

The Florida Gators were able to take home three of the four available points this weekend, forcing both games against the high-scoring Florida Atlantic Owls to go into overtime. Both games featured tons of man advantage play, solid goaltending, and great individual efforts from a variety of players on both sides of the ice.  

The story of game one was the volume and success of odd-man opportunities, with four of the nine total goals coming while on the power play.  

FAU got the game started a minute and 43 seconds into the first period, on a stretch pass from defenseman David Israel to forward Jacob Friedman, catching the Gator defense asleep on their feet.  

Five minutes later, freshman center Luke Braun was able to even up the game off a feed from freshman RW Josh Weinstein and sophomore defenseman Jacob Horwitz.  

The rest of the period saw the two teams exchange goals once more, the next coming from FAU’s Griffen Bono just two minutes after the last. The last goal of the period came with five minutes left in the period from UF’s freshman RW Evan Edwards for his sixth of the season, assisted by freshman LW Nick McCann and senior center Connor Nicholson. 

There was one shorthanded goal in the game, which came towards the end of the second period and was the only goal during the 20-minute frame. Nicholson’s calm breakout under pressure from the power-players sent Braun in on goal once more, 2 on 1, where he walked not only the defensive pair, but the goalie as well, tucking the puck away into an empty net to give the Gators their first lead of the weekend. 

All three goals in the third period came on the man advantage, with goals from FAU’s #68 Keith Goldberg and Friedman, and one from UF’s freshman defenseman Bohdi Duncan sandwiched between the two near the halfway mark. Braun took the original shot and was unable to get past Owl goalie Ciaran McNelis, but the freshman from London, Ontario was able to put it away for his second of the season.  

The Gators biggest obstacle the entire weekend was FAU’s 6 ‘3, 190 pound Toronto-born defensemen, David Israel. He assisted four goals throughout the weekend, with his lone goal being the game winner, a deflection on the power play during overtime of game one, ending the game with a 5-4 win.  

Notable Gator performances: 

#9 Luke Braun: 2 goals, 1 assist 

#20 Connor Nicholson: 3 assists  

#29 Mason Burdick: 27/32 shots faced for a .844 SV% 

Following their gut-wrenching overtime loss, the Gators brought the heat during game two.  

An Owl’s deflection gave them the lead only 35 seconds into the game, but the Gators controlled the remainder of the period, aided by smooth skating, solid transitions and great shot selection.  

Just over two minutes after the game opening goal, Weinstein got his first of the season after deflecting freshman Zach Zelmanski’s shot from the point.  

With 10:29 left in the period, McCann put on a show by throwing a shot on net then picking up his own rebound and spinning around to move past an FAU defender and put it in the back of the net.  

Not to be understated was the incredible play by junior goalie Nathan Shield, who faced a couple of odd man rushes in the first, all of which he calmly turned away.  

FAU Defenseman Justin Greenberg was able to squeak one five hole through Shield following a shot from the blueline from Israel on the man advantage at the halfway point of the period.  

Three Florida players were called for three individual infractions, with the first called on senior defenseman John Coltellino, then 1:50 later, Edwards was called for holding. Just eight seconds later, a questionable crosscheck call on sophomore defensemen Matthew Brkljacic that gave FAU a 5-on-3 for almost two whole minutes.  

However, the Boca Raton team was unable to do anything with all the space on the ice and the Gators were able to gain momentum from a very active penalty kill.  

With 7:12 to go in the second, Braun was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and was given a bench penalty, carrying a 10-minute sentence in the box. Since it was a bench penalty, it did not give the opposing team the man-advantage and Weinstein was able to score his second of the night about 90 seconds later at even-strength.  

His goal started from a great individual effort from Nicholson, who used his speed to keep the puck in the zone and pass to Weinstein in front of the goalie, who was then able to shoot a couple of times then do his own little spin move to put it away and return the lead back to the Gators.  

Freshman center Max Thellab was especially noticeable during the second, causing a lot of FAU turnovers and forcing the Owls outside the blueline. Freshman LW Jackson Choi seemed to be everywhere you look as well, getting in between the legs of opposing players and stealing pucks left and right.  

The third line consisting of freshman Josh Shraiberg, Joshua Weinstein, and Connor Nicholson looked especially crisp, making tape-to-tape cross-ice passes and putting immense pressure on the Owl’s own third line.  

Shield started the third off with a pair of terrific saves, making some Marc Andre-Fleury-type windmill glove saves to keep the Gators ahead 3-2.  

Unfortunately, FAU was able to capitalize on an unorganized Gator defense and put together two incredible passing sequences that gave Shield no chance, giving the Owl’s their first lead since the two minute mark of the first, and seemed to be ten minutes away from closing out the sweep with a 4-3 victory. 

Yet the Gators were determined to prevent this at all costs. Their efforts were soon rewarded, too, as defenseman Horwitz kept an attempted FAU clearance in the zone following a breakaway chance from Braun, and was then able to take the puck straight down the middle of the ice and snap a beauty of a wrist shot to beat FAU goalie Gunnar Stevens and tie the game up late.  

Too cool to not mention: Horwitz, #44, was able to score on the 4-on-4 to make it 4-4.  

The rest of regulation was riddled with penalties, none of which amounted to anything on the scoresheet, forcing the tied game to go to extra minutes once more.  

The five minutes started with little action at center ice as both teams got set up. Then, only 37 seconds in, an innocent looking blue-line shot from Brkljacic deceived Stevens, who let the defenseman’s soft shot slip by his pads and into the net, giving the Gators their fourth win in their five most recent games and solidifying a spot towards the top of CHS South standings. Handing the Owl’s only their third loss of the year, the Gators proved they’re very much a contender within their respective CHS division, and will look to build off this win in a rematch against UCF this Sunday, which will serve as the finale to the Gators’ fall semester schedule.  

Notable Gator Performances: 

#91 Josh Weinstein: 2 goals  

#44 Jacob Horwitz: 1 goal, 1 assist 

#28 Nick McCann: 1 goal, 1 assist 

#39 Nathan Shield: 36/40 shots faced for a .900 SV% 

Barring any changes due to Tropical Storm Nicole, your Florida Gators will travel this Sunday to the RDV Ice Den in Orlando for a midday match against UCF, with puck drop scheduled for 1:30 PM. 

Edited by Makena Winch 

Getting Up to Speed with Gators Hockey 2022-2023

By Makena Winch

186 days would pass before the Gators Ice Hockey team would suit up for another puck drop. An up and down 2021-2022 season saw the Gators rack up only 9 wins in their 21 game season, yet this same team found ways to win the few season-defining games that often make or break a year. Champions of the Savannah Hockey Classic, the Gators defeated eventual CHF Southeast champion Georgia Bulldogs to take home the trophy for the first time in 7 years. Then, in the CHF Southeast semi-finals, they were just over 10 minutes away from reaching their regional playoff finals last year, too, before falling just short in the 3rd period. Combined with wins over two of the top six nationally ranked CHF clubs during the regular season no less, the club’s sub -.500 record forces a second glance.

In comparison, The Gators Division III Club’s season hardly sported a record at all last year. In their inaugural season, the Division III Gators Ice Hockey Team played a sparse ten-game schedule against some five different opponents; nearly doubling their total games for the 2022-2023 season, the Division 3 team came into the 2022-2023 season eager to solidify their own standing.

The night of September 9th saw both Gators teams back in action, kicking off their seasons for the second consecutive year with away games in Daytona versus the Embry-Riddle Eagles own DII and DIII teams. Roster turnovers, changes in coaching for both teams, and a new practice rink some 180 miles north of the former, the forecasts for the seasons to come were about as cloudy as it gets. Going into November, both Gators hockey teams have racked up winning records, albeit in very different fashions. So what has happened so far? Who have been the leaders, and who have been the surprises? What distinguishes the current teams from their previous year counterparts? And, most importantly, where do these teams go next as we approach the mid-season mark?

Ironically, we will be looking to you, our fans and fellow students, to help continue the Gator hockey news tradition. Just as rosters turnover, so do writers. With a schedule of games dispersed throughout the entirety of geographical Florida and beyond, our news stories proved a great and convenient source of keeping the Gator hockey fan base up-to-date and connected with our skaters. If you would be interested in an internship with the club as our teams’ sports journalist, please reach out to our club secretary Makena Winch at mwinch@ufl.edu with your résumé for more information.

We hope to give not only an in-depth debriefing of all that has passed so far some time in the next one to two weeks, but also continue to provide a continual flow of post-game articles, player spotlights, and more soon after. Until then, we hope some of our 2022-2023 season photos below will help to show club hockey is still very much still alive and thriving here at the University of Florida, and as always, go gators!

Photo credits to Ally Eames for all DIII photos

Gators Finish Fourth in the CHF Playoffs

By Aileyahu Shanes

Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10

After coming up short in the 2019-20 season, the Gators finally made it to the conference playoffs. With an 8-9-1 CHS record, the Gators came into the tournament as the sixth seed, but looked to play past their ranking and create a big presence. 

The first matchup would be against the third-ranked Clemson Tigers. The Gators kept solid pace with them early on. Clemson found the back of the net first, with Connor Brydges scoring off feeds from James Conway and Cade Heinold short-handed. However, Florida was able to convert on a power play with 45 seconds left in the period. Phillip Vanderlaat would get the goal with Harrison Haber recording the assist. 

Unlike the first, Clemson took full control of the second. With just under fifteen minutes to play in the period, John McKeon would score, assisted by Jack Owen-Turner and Luke Dobbs, on a power play. Thirty seconds later, Brian Blomquist would extend Clemson’s lead to 3-1, with Cade Heinold getting his second assist and point on the play. Just fifteen seconds later, Herbert Kopf would convert on another Clemson power play, bringing the Tigers’ lead to three. At the end of the period, the Gators started to gain more control. With five minutes left in the frame, Parker Mara would score off assists from John Hunt and Matthew Brkljacic. Parker Mara would then get another goal with just three minutes to play in the second to cut Clemson’s lead to one. 

The Gators took that momentum straight into the last period. Three minutes into the third, Haber would get his first goal, and second point, of the game, assisted by John Coltellino, to tie the game at four. Phillip Vanderlaat would then give the Gators their first lead of the Game, with his second goal of the game, five minutes later off a John Hunt assist, his second of the night. John Hunt would take that momentum and get a goal of his own with seven minutes to play. Haber would get his third point of the night and Brkljacic would get his second on the play. Haber then continued his dominant performance with his second goal and fourth point of the game with six minutes to go, giving Florida a 7-4 lead. Assists went to Jacob Horwitz and John Hunt. After wracking up a plethora of assists, Brkljacic wanted to get a goal of his own. The freshman defenseman would score short-handed to give the Gators their final goal of the game. 

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The 8-2 win meant the Gators punched their ticket to the CHS semi-finals against the University of Georgia, who beat out the Auburn Tigers earlier that night. The player of the game for the Florida Gators was Harrison Haber, putting up two goals, two assists and four points; and the player of the game award for Clemson was given to Brian Blomquist, who put up a power play goal in the second period. 

The last time the Gators played the Bulldogs, they beat them in the Savannah Hockey Classic to help secure Florida’s Thrasher Cup victory. They were hoping to build on that momentum coming into the semi-final game, but Georgia was set on settling the score. 

The first period started with two Georgia goals. The first one came from freshman Trevor Gutmann off assists from Jack Gannon and Jacob Salaski. Gannon came up with the second goal, with Jackson Katz and George Mesaros both putting up assists. Later in the period, Phillip Vanderlaat put in his third goal of the tournament to cut the Bulldogs’ lead in half. Brkljacic and Mara would put up assists on the play, continuing their dominant playoff performances as well. 

The Gators turned things around in the second. Connor Nicholson would tie the game at two followed by a goal by Aidan Muruve to give the Gators a 3-2 lead. However, Matthew Bigda would tie the game at three for the Bulldogs, with Mesaros getting another assist. 

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The third period saw even more scoring. The Bulldogs took back control of the game with Jackson Katz scoring off feeds by Bigda and Mesaros. However, Brkljacic would tie the game at four, with an assist from John Hunt. From that point, however, Georgia took control of the game. Katz would find the back of the net again, assisted by defenseman Lleyton Poole. Mesaros would score the last goal of the game, with an assist going to Jack Gannon, to bring the final score to a 6-4 UGA victory. Parker Mara would take home player of the game for the Gators while Jackson Katz would get the honors for the Bulldogs. 

Although the Gators would not have the privilege of going to the championship game, they still had the chance to play in the third-place game against the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama lost their semi-finals game against Florida Atlantic, who would move forward to take on Georgia in the championship. 

Alabama came into the CHS tournament the fifth-ranked team. In the first round, they upset the fourth-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but they came up short against the second-seeded FAU Owls. No matter the outcome, both teams would finish the tournament at a ranking higher than what they came into the playoffs with initially, but getting third place would be that much sweeter for both. 

The Gators started the game very well. Five minutes into the first, Connor Nicholson would score his second goal of the tournament from Brkljacic and Mara. Alabama would tie the game at one, however, just a minute later, with a goal from forward Dean Angelo. With just over a minute left in the period, Vanderlaat would score yet another goal for the Gators to regain the lead. Hunt and Haber would cash in on assists on the play.

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The Crimson Tide flipped the script in the middle frame, however. Six minutes into the period, Ryan Olson would tie the game at two, with assists going to Matt Brown and Max Savaloja. Just over a minute later, Alabama would get their first lead of the game. Joshua Beese would convert on the power play with an assist going to Easton Williamson. 

With the Gators down one coming into the final period of the playoffs, it was now or never for them to convert. The first half of the period was evenly matched, and defense controlled throughout, but Jacob Horwitz was finally able to find the back of the net with nine minutes to go. Nicholson would record the only assist on the play. With the way the game was going, it looked like Florida would hold Alabama to overtime; however, with a minute and a half left to play, Easton Williamson would score off a feed from Max Savaloja. The Gators would try hard to tie it up again, but Alabama shut down their defense. The Crimson Tide would take third place in the tournament with a 4-3 win over the Gators. Florida would take fourth place. Jacob Horwitz would take player of the game honors for Florida while Easton Williamson, who scored the game-winning goal, would take the honors for Alabama. 

Later that night, the Georgia Bulldogs would beat out the FAU Owls 4-2 in the championship game. The final playoff rankings are as follows: #1 Georgia Bulldogs, #2 FAU Owls, #3 Alabama Crimson Tide, #4 Florida Gators, #5 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, #6 Clemson Tigers, #7 Auburn Tigers, #8 MTSU Blue Raiders.

Although the Gators fell flat in the final two games of the playoffs, this season was still nothing short of a success. They accumulated a great CHS record, finished in eleventh in the CHF Southeast Region rankings, won the Thrasher Cup and placed fourth in the CHS playoffs. It will only get better from here next season. With young talent ready to take bigger roles on the team and with most of the veterans staying for at least one more season, the only direction this hockey team can go is up.