Coming off the first loss of the season during week seven, the Florida Gulf Coast University men’s hockey team will be back at Germain Arena at 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday against the Missouri Tigers. The Missouri Tigers come to southwest Florida with a record of 2-6. The top scorer for the Tigers has a total of 10 points compared with FGCU’s top-scorer, Dan Echeverri, with 46 points. Game tickets cost $5 each and FGCU students get in free with their Eagle ID cards. The upcoming weekend should be an interesting test to see how the Eagles respond to last weekend’s 6-2 loss to the Central Michigan University Chippewas.
Just as the team and coaches predicted last week, CMU came to town to play hard. There were constantly bodies on the ice and hits against the glass. The Chippewas are known to be a strong, hard-hitting team and it showed last weekend. They held a record of 7-2-2 and were ranked seventh in the D2 Central division.
On Saturday night, the FGCU men’s ice hockey team tasted the agony of defeat in their 14th game of the season. As expected after CMU lost to FGCU on Friday, the Chippewas came onto the ice hungry for revenge on Saturday. The Chippewas brought a totally different game because of their strong motivation. They played faster against the Eagles from the drop of the first puck. They capitalized on hard hits, time on attack and the lack of discipline from FGCU.
During the second minute of the first period, CMU player Kent Burnett put the first goal in the net behind FGCU’s starting goaltender Mike Reed. Reed held a record of 1.67 goals against before the loss on Saturday. Despite FGCU’s 12 attempted shits in the first period, the Eagles couldn’t get behind CMU starting goaltender Jake DeWalt. Bernett’s goal remained the single point on the board for the period.
The second period began with another goal from the opposing team. During the fourth minute, CMU’s Steve Basinski gave the Chippewas a 2-0 lead over the Eagles with a power play opportunity stemming from two penalties on the Eagles. The advantage of two extra men on the ice immediately opened up for the CMU goal. Two minutes later, a fire lit under the Eagles and Echeverri, with an assist from Anthony Yezek, put FGCU on the board bringing the deficit back to a one-score game. With just under three minutes left in the second period, CMU player Ricky Jones scored giving the two-goal lead back to the Chippewas to end the second period.
During the third period, the scoreboard began to eat them alive with anger and frustration written all over the ice. During the 13th minute of the period, the Eagles sent the Chippewas onto the power play once again. With 10 seconds left on the extra-man advantage, CMU player Matt Cinader put in a fourth goal against FGCU. Just over two minutes later on a double-minor penalty against the Eagles, Cinader grabbed another power-play goal, bringing the score up 5-1. Only 40 seconds later, CMU player Vince Provenzano added the sixth goal to the board for the Chippewas on the second part of the double-minor penalty. To end the third period Carlo DiPiazza scored an unassisted goal with just over three minutes left in the game. The final score ended 6-2 in favor of CMU. The Eagles out shot the Chippewas 41-37, but they also picked up 42 penalty minutes while CMU only gained 14.
“It started in the first two shifts. They came with a lot of energy. They’re a big team and very talented. They were embarrassed last night losing to a team from Florida, like all northern teams are,” said head coach Bob Brinkworth. “They get upset about it, and they out fought us for the puck from that very first shift. We responded well to it. It was a 2-1 hockey game and then our discipline broke down with misconduct penalties, talking to the referee and you just can’t do that against good teams. They had one power play after another in that third period. It ends up a 6-2 hockey game and mainly because of the lack of discipline on our side. We’ve been working on the discipline since the beginning and with tonight being such a bad breakdown on that; we’re going back to square one. We’re going to be making sure everybody’s accountable because it really hurts the team when you’re two men short like we were after taking that second penalty.”
Reed, FGCU goalkeeper, had yet to let more than two goals in the net behind him. But he has a lot to say about the first loss of the season. With the Eagles flying high in their undefeated position, the taste of defeat can be humbling.
“As painful as that was, that is the best thing that could have happened to this team,” Reed said. “As odd as this may sound, we needed that. Now we know we can’t simply pretend anymore. It takes work and dedication to be a championship team. Skill is never a necessity in that equation, and I think we’ve forgotten that. How we come back from this and go forward, as a team and individually, will determine if FGCU hockey is a team of kids who just play hockey or a team of hockey players. I already know we’re the latter; we just have to start proving it. At Monday’s practice, there probably shouldn’t be a puck on the ice.”
According to FGCU forward Kevin Zipkin, Monday’s practice was completely abnormal because of the way the team played on Saturday night. They skated “suicides” for 42 minutes because that was how many penalty minutes they came away with on Saturday. “Suicides” are a face-paced skating drill where the players skate from the goal line to the blue line and back, to the red line and back, then to the far blue line and back. Forty-two minutes of such intense skating was used by Brinkworth to teach discipline.
On Friday night, the Eagles came away with a win and the continuing of the undefeated streak may have played a role in their being more complacent and less disciplined on Saturday night. The first period started with a high tempo and both teams made multiple attempts to bury the puck. The Eagles out shot the Chippewas 14-10 in the first period, but it wasn’t until the 16th minute of play that FGCU managed to get the first goal on the board. Lee Khan made a pass to Bryan Valancy, who slapped the shot right behind CMU’s starting goaltender Tyler Everlove. It wasn’t even 30 seconds later when that same line made another play to bring the score up 2-0 for FGCU. Logan Garst got the puck to DiPiazza. Valancy corralled the pass from DiPiazza and scored his second goal of the night.
“I have to credit my line mates for getting me the puck and getting the shots on net,” Valancy said. “This goalie wasn’t very strong; we just needed to shoot the puck.”
As soon as the line change came off the bench, and exactly one minute after Valancy’s first goal, Ryan McAleese added to the Eagles’ lead. Zipkin and Myles Neunecker both earned assists on the goal that brought FGCU up 3-0 to end the first period.
It was during the sixth minute of the second period that CMU player Max Wanko was able to get one behind FGCU starting goaltender Tyler Tracy. However, the Eagles didn’t let the goal deter their momentum. Only two minutes after the Chippewas got on the board, DiPiazza added his second point of the night with another goal for the Eagles, bringing them up 4-1. Valancy added a third point to his tally for the night, and Colton Bailey also earned an assist on DiPiazza’s power-play goal.
“I think the key to every game is we have to come out and match their intensity, and that’s exactly what we did,” DiPiazza said. “We’re a hard-working team. We’ll match anyone’s intensity, and if we do that we have a really good chance of winning any game. Saturday night we have to come out the same way with a strong first period by putting some goals on the board early and keep working through it.”
The Eagles came into the third period with the mentality to continue taking it to CMU instead of playing it safe. During the 12th minute their power paid off. Garst earned his second point of the night when he received a pass from Echeverri and put up the final goal for the Eagles. With seven minutes left to play in the game, CMU player Cinader got another goal behind Tracy. That goal brought the game to its final score of 5-2 with the Green and Blue on top. FGCU out shot their opponent 49-34 and earned six penalty minutes while CMU gained eight.
“We have to come out every game and match the other team’s intensity,” Garst said. “We wanted to get up first, and we did that tonight by getting a couple quick goals in the first. We have to come out starting strong, getting after it and laying bodies down.”
Tracy made a total of 32 saves for the entire game as the starting goalie for FGCU.
“It was a good team win. We got back to getting our quick starts like we normally do,” Tracy said. “I think they put some pressure on us to start the game, and they got everybody going, including me. Then the boys got rolling, and we took it over from there. Saturday night we’re going to have to be on our toes. They’re going to come out hard and strong like they did tonight. They’ll definitely want to pin us up against the corner tomorrow, so we have to come out ready to go and match the intensity like we did today.”
The key word coming out of every player’s mouth Friday night was “intensity.” With the lack of intensity they brought on Saturday night against CMU, the Eagles have a lot to work on and more to bring their game back to the standards that they started the season under with multiple goals, fast play and team chemistry.