By: Marinna Stopa
The game late Friday night in Huntsville was a true battle between two equally strong teams, but one too many mistakes and the goalie showdown proved to decide the end result.
The Gators got a power play less than three minutes into the game, and although they were not able to capitalize, proved to give the team a flow of momentum that continued for the rest of the frame.
Despite all of the offensive chances for UF, it was Alabama that opened up the scoring for the match.
Defenseman Benjamin Breen was able to capitalize on a bad line change and get one past UF goalie Mason Burdick, giving his team the lead with three minutes to go in the period.
In the opening draw of the second period, Alabama would receive their fourth penalty of the game, going against their most penalized player, center Max Savaloja.
Florida would take advantage of the extra space on the ice quickly, with Maxim Thellab and Parker Mara working together to create a beautiful set up that ends up behind Alabama goalie Luc Haggitt.
For the next nineteen minutes, the two teams played aggressive, tough hockey, creating turnovers and laying big against the boards. All of the offensive and defensive pressure for both sides amounted to nothing and the Gators and Crimson Tide went into the final period still tied at one a piece.
Less than four minutes into the final frame, Breen got his second of the game off a super clean shot that flew straight over Burdick’s glove, restoring the Alabama lead.
The Tide would strike once more with seven minutes to go, with Breen scoring his third in a row for a natural hat trick off a 2-0 breakaway chance where Burdick had no chance.
In true Florida spirit, the team played till the very end, and with the Gator goalie pulled, forward Nick McCann was able to shovel one past Haggit to bring the score to 3-2.
With only twenty seconds to go following the goal, the Gators were unable to find the equalizer and fell to #3 seed Alabama.
Rightfully so, Burdick was awarded UF’s player of the game for his outstanding performance against a sizzling Alabama offense. He saved 37 of the 40 shots for a .925 save percentage and made some incredible moves to bail out his team at the right time.
Overall, the team played extremely well, but Alabama was able to capitalize on the few mistakes they did have.
Senior center Parker Mara was absolutely everywhere on the ice, creating really great chances for his team and for himself.
Senior captain Connor Nicholson sacrificed his body on more than one occasion to prevent pucks from hitting Burdick and played a very physical game.
Sophomore Matthew Brkljacic was flying around the rink, seemingly making the journey from one end of the ice to the other in just a couple of strides, doing so while making key defensive plays for his team.
The Gators will play for the final time during the 2022-23 season Saturday afternoon at 3:30 CST (4:30 EST), against the Florida Atlantic Owls, who lost to Georgia right after the
conclusion of the Florida game. This meeting will decide fifth place in the College Hockey South playoffs.
When the two teams met in November, both games got one win each, with both games going into overtime and ending in 5-4 decisions.