Only four home games remain for the FGCU hockey team at Germain Arena
This weekend the Florida Gulf Coast University ice hockey team will face the Holy Cross Crusaders at 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at Germain Arena’s blue rink. Game tickets cost $5 each, and FGCU students get in free with their Eagle ID cards. The Eagles hold a record of 22-2-1, and they continue to hang onto the No. 1 ranking in their division in the ACHA.
Playing Holy Cross shouldn’t be too difficult a challenge for the guys in Green and Blue. The Crusaders have a record of 10-10. The Eagles won’t underestimate their opponent regardless of their record. FGCU needs to keep its focus on the game and continue working on its discipline. Talking to any of the players, they all know that their biggest challenge is discipline on the ice. Taking penalties, ending up in the box and allowing the opponent an extra-man advantage is their weakness in their play. With so many guys on the ice with such passion for the game and their team, it’s difficult not to get fired up and angry when the opposing team throws a cheap shot on them.
The team knows that retaliation will only result in being penalized and giving the opponent an opportunity to convert on a powerplay. Over the past weekend, the penalty box is what hurt them the most. They beat the Ferris State Bulldogs last weekend in both games of the weekend series. In the first game, the Eagles won 6-2. Then on Saturday night, they played almost 50 minutes of hockey without allowing the opponent to get a point on the board. But their lack of discipline gave the Bulldogs powerplay opportunities to convert to goals. The score was 8-0 going into the last 10 minutes of the game, but the final score ended 8-2.
“We need to be better helping our goalie out on defense. Tracy should have had a shutout and our defense kind of blew it for him,” said defenseman Erik Frits. “Next weekend we need to come ready to do the simple things, like staying disciplined and out of the box.”
With only four more games left in the regular season, this is when the team needs to be as focused as possible. Without a doubt, if this and the final weekend of games results in wins for the Eagles, they will surely secure the No. 1 spot in their division, and head to the National Tournament, bypassing the regionals. The team knows where they need to work hard to reach that goal. They will have about six weeks off between the final game Feb. 8 and the start of nationals March 21.
The team’s captain, Dan Echeverri, knows where the team needs to improve in order to convert the tournament into a title for the team.
“I can’t say we’re doing everything right. Those last ten minutes of the game (Saturday), if it was a 1-0 in nationals, we can’t let that happen,” Echeverri said. “We have to stay out of the box. We have four games left. We’re trying to get the automatic bid to nationals. We don’t want to see this season go to waste. Even though we won, we still have things we need to work on.” It’s hard to imagine that there are only four D2 hockey games left to be played at Germain Arena this season. The season went by quickly. For the team, it’s really unimaginable.
“We only have four games left until the National Tournament. It didn’t really sink in until coach said it Saturday night,” said alternate captain Kevin Zipkin. “It’s my senior year, so technically if everything goes well, I only have nine more games of competitive hockey. We all have to stay for the team and away from the selfish stuff, so we’re winning for everybody.”
From the mouths of the guys in Green and Blue, as long as every player is playing their hardest for the team and staying away from selfishness, all should go according to plan. The fan base is an important part of the game. While the players control the puck on the ice, the crowd controls a portion of the reaction of the opposing team. Fans dressed up in Green and Blue, shouting, chanting and showing their spirit for the school and the sport brings an unspoken aura of inferiority to the opponent.
Come out to the arena and support the FGCU Eagles ice hockey team while they make their way to winning another national title. See you at Germain Arena.
Carlo DiPiazza scores one of his two goals on Bulldogs’ goalie Ryan Medrano last Friday. EN Photo/Jill Himmelfarb