The Florida Gulf Coast University men’s hockey team opened its season with back-to-back wins against the University of Vermont, winning 8-1 and 13-1.
On Friday, Oct. 4, the Eagles ended the first period with four players scoring for the Green and Blue. Dan Echeverri, Mike Gutowitz, Carlo Dipiazza and Kevin Zipkin all put the opposing net’s twine to the test.
The second period gave the Eagles a fifth goal from Dillon Duprey. The Vermont Cats now went into the third period down 5-0 to the Eagles.
Ryan McAleese added a sixth goal to start the third period and the Cats managed to get their lone goal on the board. Duprey and DiPiazza added to the Eagles’ lead scoring their second goal each. Along with Echeverri, Dipiazza and Duprey came off the ice on Friday night with four points each.
“We’re still getting used to each other,” said Mike Reed, starting goalkeeper for the opening game against Vermont. “Mixing up the lines, I think we’re going to do big things this season. I think we exceeded our expectations.”
Reed made 21 saves on Friday night when the Eagles out-shot the Cats 43-22. The Eagles earned 12 penalty minutes and the Cats had 10. The final score ended 8-1 in favor of FGCU.
“Bob (Brinkworth, head coach) and I came into this season expecting to have a very talented team,” assistant coach Mike Lendino said. “The way that they played in this first game is a testament to the talent and the character of the guys. Usually the first game is a rocky start where you’re working out kinks but we came out and scored four goals in the first. I couldn’t be happier.”
On Saturday, Oct. 5, the Eagles faced the Cats again but this time on the main rink at Germain Arena. Duprey opened the scoring for the Eagles. From then on the opposing net became a shooting gallery for the Green and Blue. DiPiazza and Nick Schilson each added a goal to the Eagles’ score while captain Dan Echeverri added two goals. This was just the start of what would be an amazing night for Echeverri.
“I feel great,” Echeverri said. “We came out harder tonight than we did last night. I feel like we keep getting better and bonding as a team. Hopefully, on Thursday and Friday we’ll come out the same and continue to do that all year.
Echeverri ended up with four assists and in the third period he scored his third goal for the hat trick. While no hats landed on the ice, Echeverri still beamed with pride over his 11-point weekend. Kevin Zipkin and Dillon Duprey also added three points Saturday.
The second period gave Vermont the first chance to get one past starting goalie for FGCU, freshman Tyler Tracy. The Eagles came back quickly with goals from Logan Garst and Erik Frits.
“What a great feeling!” Tracy said. “Tonight the guys did a really great job helping me prepare for my first college start. Great win for everybody. I’m hoping to get a start in one of the games next weekend.”
The start of the third period gave way to Ryan McAleese and Echeverri’s “hat trick” goal. Vermont pulled starting goalie Dakota Woodworth and replaced him with Colin Hilliard. The Cats’ hope for a momentum change didn’t work when Eagles’ players Jack Emmer and Myles Neunecker each scored a goal along with Colton Bailey’s two power-play goals.
Goalkeeper Tyler Tracy made 37 saves for the Green and Blue. The Eagles out-shot Vermont 42-38 and only had 22 penalty minutes while the Cats sustained 30. The game ended 13-1 with the Eagles on top.
“This is a great start for our team,” Duprey said. “We worked really hard and had a lot of chemistry. Next weekend is going to be a bigger test for us and we’ll just have to come out hard like we did in the first period of these games.”
At 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, the FGCU Eagles face the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Germain Arena’s Blue rink. Game tickets are $5 and students are in free with their Eagle ID cards.