By: Marinna Stopa
En route to a 5-1 win, the University of Florida Gators played a complete game, dominating offensively, making key defensive plays and dazzling the home crowd.
Unlike the two in-state rivals’ previous meeting in Savannah, where Florida took home the Thrasher Cup for the second year in a row, the Seminoles began the game with a threatening opposition against the Gators.
Fortunately for the home team, Florida was able to gain and maintain pressure in the offensive zone, not giving Florida State much opportunity to gather any momentum.
To start off the scoring onslaught, with assists from defenseman Matthew Brkljacic and forward Mamim Thellab, forward Jackson Choi was able to get a quick shot into the net just over seven minutes into the game. This was goal number 14 on the season for the freshman.
At this point, most of what little energy the Seminoles had was lost and, instead, transferred over to the Gators.
Less than four minutes later, the same three players combined once again to extend their teams’ lead by a pair. This time around, Choi and Brkljacic sent a pass to Thellab shooting down the middle of the ice, who was able to lift the puck clean over FSU’s goalie Ryan Malvaso’s glove.
With this point, Brkljacic increased his season assist totals to double digits, with 10 on the season.
With an on-fire offense, the Seminoles defense was spilling all over the ice, leaving players unattended, taking bad penalties and leaving their goalie out to dry.
The Gators definitely took advantage of all of the open ice, ringing shots off the crossbar and forcing the Seminoles goalie to, literally, pull out all the stops.
To finish off the first period, forward Joshua Weinstein got his eighth goal of the season with the help of defenseman Bohdi Duncan and forward Quinn Shepard, bringing both of their season point totals to five.
Following an absolutely dominating first period, the Seminoles came out of the locker room not willing to back down.
Despite Duncan’s massive hit in front of the net, center Mitch Gordon was able to get one back for FSU eight minutes into the period off a defensive breakdown by the Gators.
Even though the Seminoles pushed back more defensively and offensively, Florida still had plenty of shots on net. About half way through the period, Malvaso looked to be in considerable pain after he made a series of really great saves.
With the extended pause to check out the Seminole goalie, Florida Head Coach Mike Marcinkiewicz decided to pull goalie Burdick to split the game with Shield, giving them both ample playing time before the playoffs.
In the last twenty minutes, forward Connor Nicholson was able to get one of his own at the halfway point of the period. For the captain, this was his team-leading 27th point of the season and his second goal in two games. With assists by forwards Nick McCann and Evan Edwards, the pairs’ point totals increased to 15 and 19, respectively, on the season.
To seal the deal, Thellab got his second goal and third point of the afternoon with less than five to go in the game, assisted by defenseman Zach Zelmanski, his seventh assist of the season.
In the two meetings between the in-state rivals, shots from Florida got to the Florida State net a whopping 109 times, with 11 of those landing behind the goalie. This means that for just about every 10 shots, the Gators got one goal.
In comparison, the Seminoles only managed to get two of the teams’ 42 shots behind Burdick and Shields, for an incredible .952 save percentage.
Next for the Gators is CHS playoffs in Huntsville, Alabama, but the opponent is unknown because the official bracket has yet to be released.
Nonetheless, the first game will be during the late afternoon or evening of Friday, February 24th.