The Georgia club hockey team lost to South Carolina 6-4 Friday night in Athens at the Akins Ford Arena at the Classic Center. The second loss in two days brings the Ice Dawgs’ ACHA record to 9-6-1.
Senior forward Caleb Santa Maria continued his nice season by adding two more goals to his team leading mark. Sophomore forward Jackson Katz assisted on two of Georgia’s three early goals.
This was the first of two meetings between the SEC rivals and set the stage for a high-stakes Jan. 25 rematch.
South Carolina is a fast, physical team and it was one of Georgia’s toughest assignments all season. At the start of the match, the Ice Dawgs capitalized on that physicality, which led to multiple Gamecock penalties. A power-play goal set up a 2-0 first period lead.
“They were persistent all night,” head coach Rick Emmett said. “They were hungry. [South Carolina] is a group that is hungry and there is purpose to every shift. We did not have that purpose at times.”
Following the Thursday night overtime loss to Kennesaw State, Emmett was critical of his team’s situational awareness late in games. Those shortcomings showed up again.
The Ice Dawgs were outscored 3-1 in the second period after giving up goals at both the beginning and end of the frame. South Carolina snatched momentum after scoring with just 5.5 seconds remaining in period two.
Georgia had two separate two-goal leads but was unable to hang on long enough to win.
“When we were winning, everyone was on the same page and everyone had that situational awareness,” senior captain Aaron Phillips said. “Tonight, the past two nights, [we were] a little bit lacking and that is where we got away from our game and honestly, it cost us pretty big.”
The team appeared rattled at times and Georgia’s frustration boiled over midway through the final period. Sophomore defender Cameron Campbell tied up a Gamecock forward and powered him into the ice. Campbell received a major five minute trip to the penalty box.
Georgia was outplayed physically in both recent losses but according to Phillips, the team’s energy level is still great. The Ice Dawgs don’t play again until Jan. 9 against Alabama.
“I think we still have a pretty good amount of energy,” Phillips said. “These two games definitely sucked a good bit out of us but with this break, hopefully everyone will stay in shape and keep on the ice.”
The Ice Dawgs are looking forward to seeing their SEC rival again later this season. With just a few remaining matches, both teams will have a sense of urgency.
“Oh yeah,” Phillips said. “I am very excited. January 25th.”