The Florida Gulf Coast University D3 hockey team gears up to take on the University of Tampa at 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10 at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. The Spartans come to Germain Arena for game two of the series at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct 11. Tickets are $5 at the door, but are free with your Eagle ID.
The Spartans come with a previous 3-3-1 record, notching a win over the Gamecocks with a score of 7-5. Power forward Matthew Antonacci having scored nine goals in six games poses a huge scoring threat for the Eagles’ defense. Antonucci scored a hat trick against Palm Beach State College Saturday, Sept. 20.
“Next weekend against UT should be a tough one,” Captain Mike Piatek said. “They picked up a few new rookies that are supposedly good, and they almost beat UCF, which is one of the best teams in our division. Next weekend should be a good battle, and we hope to see all the fans back at the rink Saturday night.”
FGCU held its home opener at Germain Arena on Friday, Oct. 3 against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Eagles had an undefeated weekend against the Gamecocks with a score of 4-3 Friday night and 4-0 Saturday.
“We will need to continue to build on our teamwork as a whole,” Coach Kevin Mixon said. “Getting to know our line mates and their mannerisms on the ice is something that will continue to grow all throughout the season. We will continue to work hard in practice this week and build on the weekend’s success.”
During the ninth minute of the first period, Eagles’ scoring began with a powerplay goal Ryan McAleese assisted by Brett Sutton and Zach Cacpo. Four minutes after, the Eagles continued their control when Sutton put another puck past the Gamecocks’ goaltender John Musciano. With less than 3 minutes left in the period, Paul Moneuse put in a shorthanded goal, before the Gamecocks got their first goal of the game, putting a puck past FGCU’s starting goaltender Tyler Toyota.
The Eagles came out flying, at the start of the second period. During the third minute of the second period, Moneuse corralled a pass from Piatek and buried his second goal of the game, and the only goal of the second period.
“All four coaches did a great job of helping us play better and pointing out what we need to change during the game,” Piatek said. “Our biggest killer was penalties. We need to quit taking lazy penalties and make smarter plays. Other than that it wasn’t a bad opening weekend, but there’s room for improvement.”
The third period shots favored the Gamecocks, with S.C. outshooting the Eagles 15-10. S.C. put another one on the board in the seventh minute with a powerplay goal scored by Kyle Ware. The Eagles led the third period in penalties with 21 minutes, 15 of which were attributed to Steven Perez for spearing. With 16 seconds left in the third period, the Gamecocks were able to slip another one past Toyota, but it wasn’t enough and FGCU kept its lead pulling off the first win of season with the home opener.
Saturday night’s meeting was commanded by a determined Eagles squad. Outshooting the Gamecocks 42-36, FGCU pulled out its second win of the weekend.
“We came together great during our first two games of the year,” Piatek said. “We started a little shaky in the first game and got the win, but we’re not satisfied. We came together the next day and played a lot better.”
Jimmy Williams put the first point on the board for FGCU with an unassisted goal during the fourth minute of the first period. Gamecocks’ goaltender Musciano stopped 15 of the 16 Eagles shots.
The Eagles ignited the packed stands, with a hard- hitting second period. Met with a rash of penalties, FGCU successfully killed three second-period penalties. With seven minutes left in the second period, forward Gabe Lamontagne scored his first of the season past a rattled Gamecocks’ Musciano.
“I would like to thank all the fans for coming out to our games this weekend and packing the house,” Piatek said. “It makes a big difference when the crowd is there cheering us on. They get us going when we need a spark.”
The third period displayed hard hitting and penalties. Blasting one behind Musciano, defender Edmondson, assisted by McAleese and Sutton, began FGCU’s third-period scoring. Mike Gutowitz made a smooth pass to McAleese, who netted his second goal of the season.
“First, I would like to thank the study body for bringing two outstanding crowds to D3 hockey’s opening weekend,” McAleese said. “With the crowd and excitement of a new season, the entire game was filled with big hits and exciting plays that I thoroughly enjoyed.”
Tyler Toyota, Eagles’ starting goaltender, shut out the Gamecocks. Toyota stopped 36 shots in Saturday’s meeting against S.C, and only allowed three goals from a combined 65 total shots on net. Toyota’s .95 save percentage proved invaluable for the Eagles.
“I am happy to be apart of a new family and am very much looking forward to our season as a whole,” McAleese said. “I want to take it one game at a time, but am optimistic about our chances. We have a core group of men who have the ability to do great things if we keep coming together. If Saturday is an indication of us gelling better just after Friday’s game, I’d hate to be UT this weekend.”