UGA Hockey vs. Life University 1/12/16

Georgia's forward Christopher Santa Maria (76) faces off against a Life University player during a club hockey match at the Classic Center in Athens, GA, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (Photo/Jacob Egan)

Georgia’s club ice hockey team used a dominant opening period to outlast South Carolina and win its home opener 5-3 at the Classic Center on Thursday night.

Georgia sophomore Christopher Santa Maria led all scorers with three goals on the night.

The Ice Dawgs scored four goals in the first 12 minutes of play before being shutout until the final two minutes of the third period. 

“Obviously we’ll take a win and 4-0 is better than 3-1,” head coach Rick Emmett said. “Certainly I don’t think we played our best game tonight or put our best foot forward. We started really well and got the 4-0 lead. Generally when you play 10 minutes of a 60-minute game, you don’t come out successful but somehow we found a way to do that.” 

Senior Ryan Bray opened the scoring for Georgia less than four minutes into the contest with a slap-shot goal from the left side of the net assisted from sophomore Cam Gilmore. The goal put the Ice Dawgs up 1-0 with 16:23 remaining in the first period.

Less than two minutes later, Christopher Santa Maria took the puck at half-ice and skated down the right side of the rink before scoring unassisted from five feet out to extend Georgia’s lead to 2-0. 

Senior Alex Carey decked out the South Carolina goalkeeper and scored up close from the left side of the net to give the Ice Dawgs a 3-0 advantage with 13:42 left in the opening period. 

The Ice Dawgs’ final goal of the first period came on an assist from Georgia freshman Caleb Santa Maria to Christopher Santa Maria for a chip-in shot from five feet out to give Georgia the 4-0 lead with 8:21 left.

The Gamecocks ended Georgia’s hopes of a shutout with a goal from 15 feet out on the right side of the net to cut their deficit to 4-1 with 5:45 left in the first period. 

After nearly two periods of offensive frustration from both squads, the Gamecocks ended the 37-minute scoreless drought with a goal off of a deflection to pull within 4-2 at the 8:09 mark in third period. The Ice Dawgs pushed their lead back out to three goals with a Christopher Santa Maria shot from five feet out with 2:00 remaining in the final period. 

South Carolina knocked in a slap shot with 45 seconds remaining for the final score of the game.

The Ice Dawgs will be back in action at the Classic Center Friday evening as they host Florida in a rematch of last season’s South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference championship game.

“We have to come out ready [Friday],” Emmett said. “It’s Florida, so it’s obviously never going to be an easy game. We have a couple very skilled hockey players and good goaltending, and we’ve got to be ready. That’s just it. We’ve got to be better than we were [Thursday night].

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