By Aileyahu Shanes
Follow on Twitter @a_shanes10
The College Hockey South regular season is finally in the books, and the sixth-seed Florida Gators are ready to take on the playoffs, starting with the third-seed Clemson Tigers. The 2021-22 season wasn’t smooth sailing, but the Gators’ performance was enough to secure them a spot in the playoffs and potentially landing them a spot in the CHF nationals.
The first round of the playoffs will be played tonight. The first matchup of the night will be between the #1 Georgia Bulldogs and the #8 Auburn Tigers at 5:15pm CST / 6:15pm EST. The next game will feature the #4 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets against the #5 Alabama Crimson Tide. The game will be played at 5:30pm CST / 6:30pm EST. The third game of the night will be played between the #2 FAU Owls and the #7 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders at 7:45pm CST / 8:45pm EST. The final game will take place between Florida and Clemson at 8:00pm CST / 9:00pm EST/
Clemson is a team that has found a lot of success this season. They accumulated a 9-1-1 CHS record and a 10-5-3 overall record. Their performance allowed them to not only secure the third seed in the CHS, but it also allowed them to be the tenth ranked team in the CHF Southeast Region.
The leading scorer for the Tigers is Jacob Vander Leest. The forward put up 28 points, fifteen goals and thirteen assists in just seventeen games played. Vander Leest is currently a graduate student out of Downers Grove, Illinois. Another player to keep an eye on is freshman James Conway. The forward from Darien, Connecticut, recorded sixteen points in only ten games, including seven goals and nine assists. Cade Heinold is another player to watch. The forward is a sophomore out of Seneca, South Carolina, and put up 21 points, ten goals and eleven assists in seventeen games.
Although the Gators are the underdogs in this matchup, they have the talent and resilience to keep up with this Tiger team. The Gators finished the season with a respectable 8-2-1 CHS record and a 10-9-2 overall record. The Gators also rank closely with Clemson, as they are the eleventh ranked team in the CHF Southeast Region. With a full-strength team, they are sure to play far better than their rankings show.
All playoff games this weekend will be played at Benton H. Wilson Municipal Ice Complex in Huntsville, Alabama. Tickets to the CHS playoffs are sold as season-day passes. Adults are charged $10 per person while children and military members are charged $7 per person.
The team is also raising money in an effort to afford the costs of attending the CHS playoffs. If you would like to help out, be sure to check out the Go Fund Me and make a donation.