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FGCU Club Hockey Stomps Golden Gophers, Notching First Wins of 2024

Hannah Frazier @capturedbyhannahf

As winter break came to a close, the 17-2-1 Eagles returned to Hertz Arena to play the 8-7-2-1 Minnesota Golden Gophers on Jan. 5 and 6. They entered this game after a weekend sweep in early December against the 11 8-1 University of Massachusetts-Amherst Minutemen. They looked to start the new year the right way against the Golden Gophers and that they did, winning both games in the process.

The first game started with both teams only able to get five shots off in the first eight minutes. Both teams were still dusting the rust off after a month of not playing at game speed. The Eagles struggled to bring the puck down the ice with the Golden Gophers’ defensive pressure. They faltered early on with the few opportunities that they had the puck on Minnesota’s side of the ice.

Sophomore defenseman Shane Romback scored the Eagles’ first goal of the game 14 minutes in, overcoming the Golden Gophers’ defensive pressure. FGCU’s lead did not last long as Minnesota scored a goal on the following faceoff to tie the score at 1-1.

The first period ended with the Eagles making a late rally on goal to no avail. Both teams ended the period tied, as neither was able to gain an edge.

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Both teams continued to go back and forth as the second period got underway. The difference was that the Eagles were able to sustain more scoring chances down the ice. FGCU scored their second goal from junior forward Thomas Zebley to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. They did not give up their lead after this goal for the rest of the game.

Minnesota continued to stall out during the second period as they were not able to get anything going on offense. FGCU flipped a switch during the second period en route to dominating puck possession on Minnesota’s side of the ice. The Eagles used this to their advantage as they were able to knock in two more goals to end the second period.

The first of these two goals came from junior forward Shane Murphy with an assist from sophomore forward Jaiz Barner. The second goal came in the final four seconds of the period off of a power play by sophomore forward Jake Court. The Eagles ended the period with a commanding 4-1 lead.

As the third period started, there was only one more goal scored the rest of the game. Zebley scored his second goal of the game to give the Eagles a 5-1 lead and their first win of the new year. While the Eagles started off slow, they quickly came into form. They looked to do the same heading into game two of the weekend.

Game two began identically to the first game as neither team was able to get a goal in the early minutes of the first period. 

It took until seven minutes in, but sophomore forward Dylan Castello scored the Eagles’ first goal of the second game. This ended up being the only goal scored in the first period with the majority of the period being littered with penalties by both teams.

Penalties plagued the Eagles early in the second period as well, as Minnesota was able to tie it up on a power play to make the score 1-1. The Golden Gophers continued this momentum as they had 19 shots on goal in the second period including the goal. The efforts of graduate student and goalie Ryan Nussbaum were the reason the Eagles stayed in the game to this point.

The Eagles were able to rally back to score two goals before the second period came to a close. Graduate student and forward Wyatt Engelmann knocked in the first of these two goals, with his brother, junior forward Carson Engelmann, punching in the second to give FGCU a 3-1 lead.

Aggression defined the second period as the Eagles were called for four penalties in comparison to the Golden Gophers’ one. It also saw a shoving match between Castello and one of Minnesota’s players. Neither player got a penalty for the altercation.

The physicality continued as the third period was underway as both teams combined for eight penalties, four penalties apiece. These penalties did not stop the Eagles however as they scored their fourth goal of the game. This goal came from Engelmann, his second of the game, to bring the score to 4-1.

The Golden Gophers scored a goal 17 minutes into the period off of a power play to make the score 4-2. But the Eagles’ Court, who scored in the first game the night before, quickly ended the hope of a late-game rally for Minnesota with a short-handed goal for FGCU 19 minutes in.

FGCU won the second game, 5-2, to sweep the weekend, moving their record to 19-2-1 on the season. The Eagles are at home again on Jan. 12 and 13 to play hosts to the 15-5-0-1 University of Kentucky Wildcats.

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About the Contributor
Jeffrey Hrunka
Jeffrey Hrunka, Eagle News Assistant Sports Editor
Jeffrey Hrunka is a junior double majoring in communications and journalism with a concentration in public relations. Jeffrey is from Fort Myers where his interest in sports journalism originated after falling in love with the world of motorsports. When he’s not working for Eagle News, he is usually spending time with friends, watching the New York Giants lose, or chilling in the pool.

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