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**