There was little doubt about whether Florida would win its second game in the Savannah Tire Hockey Classic on Saturday night against Florida State.
The only real suspense was how many goals would the Gators score and would the Seminoles score enough to block Florida’s attempt to win the Thrasher Cup for the second time. Florida (15-2, ranked No. 4 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 3 South division) led 6-0 after the first period and glided to a 13-2 victory over the Seminoles that secured the Gators’ second Thrasher Cup in front of a sellout crowd of 5,615 in the Savannah Civic Center.
The Gators put up 27 goals in wins over Georgia and Florida State, and tournament organizers believe Florida’s goal total is a tournament record. Florida was assured the Thrasher Cup when Georgia scored three goals against Georgia Tech in the first period of Saturday’s second game.
Georgia used the momentum gained in the first period to rebound from Friday’s 14-1 loss to Florida to stun Georgia Tech, 9-3, in the nightcap. Despite the loss, the Yellow Jackets finished as the tournament runner up.
“I couldn’t be much more proud of what the boys did during the weekend,”
said Florida coach Mike Marcinkiewicz, who won the Thrasher Cup for the first time since taking over as Florida’s head coach three years ago. “They just worked and worked as you can see by the scores.”
Florida forwards Scott Schilson and Ryan Geffin and defenseman Kevin Masaro all recorded hat tricks against Florida State, and fifth year senior Scott Schwartz was named the game’s most valuable player after passing out seven assists.
“This has been a long time coming, and to be able to end on this note is the most fun weekend you could have as a college hockey player,” said Schwartz, who appeared in his fifth Hockey Classic and was honored with the Stathis Award for the tournament’s most outstanding player. “In the past, we’ve had trouble against Georgia and Florida State so it’s nice to come out and play our best against our two biggest rivals in front of fans who have supported us all along. It really means a lot.”
Against Florida State, Florida forward Scott Short scored less than three minutes into the game and the floodgates opened for the Gators. Florida scored three goals in less than five minutes during a first period span, and Michael Dutka and Masaro finished the first period with two goals in less than 30 seconds to put the Gators ahead 6-0.
Schilson totaled five goals in the two games, and he and Geffin and Masaro combined for 12 goals in the tournament. Schilson scored in all three periods against the Seminoles as the Gators skated circles around Florida State and indisputably illustrated that they were the class of the Hockey Classic.
“We definitely peaked at the right time,” said Marcinkiewicz. “We started slow at the beginning of the season, but the lines are really clicking together now. The guys had a great tournament.”
Despite resoundingly demonstrating that they were the best team in the Savannah Civic Center for two days, a rules change forced the Gators to closely watch Georgia Tech’s game against Georgia to know if they were the tournament champions. The first tiebreaker this year after head-to-head competition was goals scored against, and Florida allowed three total goals to Georgia and Florida State.
When Georgia’s Eric Mauge scored to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead with three minutes remaining in the first period, Florida was crowned the Hockey Classic champion for the second time. Georgia built an 8-1 lead over Georgia Tech early in the third period, and the Bulldogs’ Peter Kacer netted a hat trick and dished out two assists to be named the game’s most valuable player.
Georgia’s Austin Shin and David Bakin both scored two goals, and the Bulldogs’ goalkeeper Kevin Smith stopped 34 of Georgia Tech’s 37 shots.
“We felt like we were a better team than the score (against Florida) reflected, and our boys came to play with a lot of energy,” said longtime Georgia coach John Hoos. “Any time you get Georgia and Georgia Tech together on this ice, that game is going to be paramount no matter what happened in the game the night before. That’s what makes this tournament so special.”
Here are several other news articles from the Savannah Hockey Classic: