UGA Beats Florida 6-2, Improves to 5-0
Eric Mauge nets hat trick to lift Dawgs to perfect 5-0
On the first day that felt like fall in a hockey town down south, the University of Georgia welcomed in-conference rivals the Florida Gators to the Classic Center in downtown Athens. The Ice Dawgs, coming off a big 5-3 win over South Carolina the previous night, looked to remain perfect already five games into the year. Meanwhile, the Gators entered into Akins Arena searching for their first victory of the year after dropping their opener to Kennesaw State, and then tying the Owls the following night.
With fans filling in their seats, the excitement level in the rink began to rise as the teams lined up for the opening drop. The teams were able to get off to quick starts, with both squads finding chances in the early minuets. It was the Ice Dawgs who were able to open the games scoring as Christopher Santa-Maria picked up his fourth goal in the past two games. The sophomore forward was able to sneak the puck behind Florida goalie, Fred Bourret, to give Georgia a power play tally on their first attempt of the night. Santa-Maria’s brother Caleb was credited with the assist on the play.
The Dawgs seemed to find some confidence following their opening goal, as they started to take control of the game in the next few minutes. Georgia was able to dominate the pace, making crisp breakout passes when the Gators did manage to get in the Ice Dawgs zone. Along with outskating Florida, the home team showed their all-around play and out played the Gators in the physical aspect of the game.
UGA was able to double their lead to 2-0 with just 7.1 seconds remaining in the opening frame. The Ice Dawgs second power play goal of the night after Eric Mauge was able to create a turnover in Florida’s zone and send the puck flying over Bourret’s shoulder into the top shelf. The late period goal sent the Dawgs into the locker room confident, knowing they would have to continue this level of play to keep their lead.
As the beginning minutes of the middle frame passed, Georgia found themselves playing more in their defensive zone than in Florida’s. The Gators success was paid off 3:54 into the period as they found the net to cut their deficit to one. Florida forward Bryan Miller was the man credited with the goal after he wristed a floating puck past the arm of UGA goalie, Andrew Bray. Captain Daniel Clifford picked up his second assist of the year on the play.
Florida continued to apply pressure to the Dawgs, and showed the Dawgs they were not backing down. Georgia replied with hard work of their own, and with 9:37 remaining in the second, regained their two goal lead. Senior Ryan Bray scored his first of the night after the shot from Dan Fendius ricocheted off the pad of Courrett and landed directly on his stick. The tally made the score 3-1 in favor of UGA.
Just over three minutes later, Eric Mauge netted his second of the night to make it 4-1 Ice Dawgs. The senior out of Bangor, Maine found the loose puck behind the net and wrapped it in for the easy goal. Florida, looking to shake up their fortunes, replaced Bourret with back-up goalie Mark Finkelstein following the Georgia goal.
With 3:46 remaining in the frame, the Gators did just that. Brendan Nicholson was able to send a wrist shot past Bray and cut the score to 4-2 for the Dawgs. The goal was the Florida junior’s first of the year and sparked a late period effort from the visiting team.
Despite the barrage of shots from the Gators late in the period, Georgia was able to hang on to their two goal lead going into the second intermission. Built off of strong play from Andrew Bray and a large physical presence, the Dawgs looked to remain unbeaten heading into the third.
As the puck dropped on the final stanza, tempers began to raise, and the hit count steadily increased. The visiting players became noticeably more frustrated, pleading with the referees in an attempt to draw more calls. This tactic proved inefficient for the Gators, as David Spielberger was able to tap in a puck that trickled behind the back of Florida goalie, Mark Finkelstein. The sophomore’s first home goal of the year was assisted by Aaron Phillips, and made the score 5-2 Ice Dawgs with just over 13 minutes remaining.
Georgia was not finished their though. With just over half the period remaining. Eric Mauge was able to put home his third goal of the night for the hat-trick. In a game in which it seemed he could do no wrong, the senior received a pass from Spielberger and sent the puck flying past the Florida goalie to make it 6-2 for the Ice Dawgs.
Stemming from the frustration of being four goals down, the Gators turned their focus on getting as many checks as they could before the clock hit zero. The Ice Dawgs replied to the play of the Gators with some big hits of their own to go along with strong puck play that kept the action in the Florida zone.
As the final minutes played out in the game, both teams started to slow their play. After controlling the tempo for much of the game, the Ice Dawgs were able to finish the game strong, with a 6-2 victory over the Florida Gators.
With the win in their first matchup of the year against the Gators, the Ice Dawgs improved to 2-0 at home to go along with a perfect 5-0-0 record. Up next Georgia will travel to South Carolina to matchup with the Gamecocks for the second time this year.