“It’s a dream come true,” said an elated head coach John Hoos.
The Georgia Ice Hockey team’s 6-3 win in the Classic Center Wednesday night was a dream come true for many reasons.
It marked the first ever win in the Classic Center for the Ice Dogs. It was won over in-state rival Georgia Tech, in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,197 fans. It was three key seniors' last game. It was Hoo’s birthday.
This game had it all.
There was checking, shoving, shots, saves and goals. Lots of goals.
“For years people had just heard about our team, but never really saw us,” senior co-captain Peter Kacer said. “This was their first time seeing us, so we tried to live up to whatever hype we had.”
The hype was met and surpassed just eight minutes in when Kacer shot the puck right between the Georgia Tech goal tender’s legs. The crowd didn’t take long to catch on as a loud roar occurred for the first ever goal in the Classic Center.
The lead was kept throughout most of the first half, with a lot of possession time belonging to Georgia. With just over a minute left in the first period, junior goalie Kevin Smith saved a shot which then bounced back out to a Yellow Jacket forward who netted the tying goal.
The second period began tied, but would most definitely not end that way. With 12 minutes remaining in the second period, Georgia Tech forward Cole Wright slashed a Georgia defender. Hoos decided to pull his goalie and get a play in before Georgia Tech could touch the puck and stop play. The Ice Dogs connected some passes down the ice and Kacer played a pass from the corner to senior forward Kyle Kidwell who chipped his shot over a sliding Tech goalie. The Ice Dogs led again, now 2-1.
Within two minutes, two more Georgia goals were scored. The first was by sophomore forward Eric Mauge on a 5-3 power play, and the second was netted by Kidwell on the 5-4 advantage. By the end of the second period, the Ice Dogs' lead was pushed to 6-3.
Some offensive insurance was added by sophomore Stephen Bray, who scored a goal, and sophomore David Bakin, who added two assists.
Georgia Tech threatened a few times, but the Georgia seniors refused to end with a loss. Kacer ended the night with a goal and three assists, while Kidwell scored two goals.
“The seniors wanted to get the win more than anybody,” Hoos said. “This was their only game in Athens and they worked hard for it. We are going to miss them I think as much as they are going to miss us.”
The seniors have dedicated four years of their lives to the Ice Dog program and were rewarded for it with a win at their true home, finally.
“There’s no better way to end it after four years of playing here,” Kacer said. “Just the perfect ending. A lot of people don’t get to go out this way, and I did, so I’m lucky.”
Coach Hoos loses three seniors in Kacer, Kidwell and defender Robert Brafford, but still keeps promising talent in the rest of the team and gains a new home facility for all of next season.
“We got our first taste of this arena,” Hoos said. “I think it’s only added to the excitement for next season. I’m excited for our fans and I can’t wait for Sept. 20 against the Gators.”
Hoos admitted this victory was a dream come true, but for him and the Ice Dogs, it’s only the beginning.