Despite finishing in third place in the Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs, the Georgia club hockey team earned an automatic bid to the national tournament.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association announced the final rankings for the four Division 3 regions via an online telecast on Feb. 14. The two best teams from each region bypass the regional playoffs and advance to the national tournament.
The ACHA ultimately decided that the Ice Dawgs should be one of those teams.
They nabbed the No. 2 seed in the south region, behind No. 1 Florida Gulf Coast, and they could not be any happier with the results.
“I was ecstatic,” senior forward Alex Carey said. “After what happened last year [with] us getting snubbed out of the No. 2, to see the entire Division 3, 150 teams, have to watch that video and see UGA at No. 2, that felt really good.”
The reveal show took place at 12 p.m. on a Wednesday so a lot of the players were preoccupied with school, but the team made sure to know what was going on.
“I was actually in class,” junior forward Carter Penzien said. “And then we have a GroupMe between all the guys and it started blowing up. I started getting texts from the guys on the team hearing that we got the No. 2 seed.”
Carey, meanwhile, watched the video as soon as it was posted and fast forwarded to when the commentators revealed the south regional matchups.
“To see Kennesaw State come in as the No. 3 seed, that meant that we were the No. 2 seed,” Carey said.
Leading up to the big reveal, the Ice Dawgs talked with each other about their chances of securing the automatic bid. Some were uneasy, others not at all.
Some players even tried to come up with the algorithms that the ACHA uses to make the rankings.
Before the SECHC playoffs, Georgia was ranked second in the south region. The loss to Florida in the SECHC semifinal game, however, complicated things, but the players who did the research assured their teammates that they were fine.
“A lot of the guys were like, ‘I don’t see us falling out of second place based off the other games in the division, who had lost to whom,’” Penzien said.
The automatic bid gives Georgia some time to rest. Nationals start on March 8 and do not wrap up until the last weekend of the Georgia’s spring break.
“We get to bypass regionals, which is this upcoming weekend, which is really nice,” Penzien said. “Obviously just the honor of getting that bye of regionals, but also just to get guys healed up, get guys healthy for nationals, get some conditioning in, and hopefully go into nationals with a full team.”