*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