By: Marinna Stopa
After losing to Alabama in the quarterfinals, Saturday afternoons contest against Florida Atlantic University was to decide fifth place.
FAU came out of the locker room flying, scoring three goals in the first period. The first one, coming three and a half minutes in, was a powerplay goal from a well-versed power play unit.
The teams’ power play unit got plenty of reps in the previous day against the University of Georgia, where they had nine chances with the man advantage, capitalizing on three of them.
The game for Florida didn’t really get started until the last handful of minutes.
Center Parker Mara, with assists by defenseman Bohdi Duncan and left-winger Nick McCann, shoveled one past FAU goaltender Gunnar Stevens, giving their team some life back with three and a half to go in the period.
Less than two minutes later, center Tom Walker got his fourth of the season, with an assist by right-wing Joshua Weinstein. With this goal, the lead was cut in half, bringing UF into the middle frame only down by one.
The South Florida team would strike again a minute and a half into the second period, re-extending their team’s lead to two.
Six short minutes later, Maxim Thellab secured his first goal of the game when he picked up a loose puck in front of the net, capitalizing on a frazzled FAU defense.
Mara and McCann both gained their second points of the night with assists on Florida’s third goal of the game.
The Gators finally tied up scoring with eight and a half to go in the period, again with a goal by Thellab and an assist by Mara.
However, this would not stay for long, as the Owls scored on the following shift fifteen seconds later. Jacob Friedman and Myles Davidson would each get their second point of the game to put their team back on top.
Keith Goldberg further extended that lead, shooting the puck clear over Nathan Shield’s glove with six to go in the period.
At this point, interim head coach John Hunt decided to pull the Florida goalie, replacing him with Mason Burdick, who played yesterday in the loss against Alabama (link).
Right at the start of the final frame, following a short intermission, Florida would, once again, claw back to within one. With his second point of the game, Weinstein got a beautiful puck past Stevens’ shoulder before the FAU goalie even knew what was coming, with assists by Josh Horwitz and Quinn Shepard.
For the remainder of the period, the Gators gave it everything they had, putting nearly twenty shots on net and producing beautiful opportunities on its two power plays. Unfortunately, they were not successful in completing the comeback once more, and, with Burdick pulled from his net, FAU was able to end the game with an empty net goal with thirty seconds remaining.
To end the season, ten players were in the double digits for points, with captain Connor Nicholson in the lead with 29. The senior also led his team in assists, with 22.
Thellab was the team’s leading goal scorer, with 18 on the season.
Five players were averaging at least a point per game; Luke Braun, Parker Mara, Connor Nicholson, Maxim Thellab and Nick McCann.
Zack Zelmanski spent the equivalent of an hour in the box over the course of the season, leading the team with 61 penalty minutes, made up of 23 minor penalties and three majors.
Even though this final result is not what the Gators wanted, this season certainly showed a sneak peak into a prosperous future.
Most of the team is underclassman, with less than a handful graduating this spring, so the team will be full of familiar faces come next fall.
This 13-8-1 final record is a stark difference compared to last seasons, where the Gators ended 5-10-1.
There is much to be excited about for the Florida Gators and the team thanks you for supporting them every step of the way.