The Georgia Ice Dogs rebounded Sunday with a solid performance in net by Paul Connors to defeat Alabama 7-4 and take home 3rd place from the 2011 SECHC Tournament Cup. Connors stopped 51 of 55 Frozen Tide shots and Peter Kacer picked up his second hat trick of the tournament to help Georgia come away victorious.
The “Frozen Tide” finished the regular season ranked 3rd in the ACHA D3 South national ranking prior to the playoff for the SEC crown, while Georgia failed to crack the top ten. The victory for Georgia out shined the loss to Bama earlier in the season that took place in the same building as part of the Clash in Columbus. Georgia goalie Paul Connors received the player of the match as he recorded 50 saves to shut down the Bama offense – the tide was only able to get two pucks past Connors in the first 52 minutes of the game. Only two late power play goals kept the score respectable. Sophomore transfer sensation Peter Kacer tallied his second hat-trick of the SEC playoffs, and added a dazzling assist with a highlight show spin-o-rama and pass to line mate Cam Navis.
Just 2:19 into the game first year junior Jard Reeves notched the second goal of his career at Georgia to lead off the scoring on a pass from junior Steve “Salty” Salvatierra. The goal inspired the Dawgs leading to a four-goal Georgia first period. Senior Lee Bosma notched the final goal of his illustrious career on a pass from transfer junior Brian Swegman to put Georgia up 2-0. Alabama’s Himmelman cut the lead to 2-1 just two minutes later, but the show had just begun for Georgia. With 6:39 remaining in the period Chris Bastecki picked a Kacer pass out of mid-air near the Bama blue line sprinting past the Tide defense and fired a wrist shot past Krochaus to put Georgia up 3-1. Two minutes later Chris Heidkamp finished off an Alabama power play to bring the score to 3-2. Less than a minute later Kacer took a Bastecki pass up the left wing and as he was cut off by a Bama defensman he pirouetted a 360 degree spin feeding a backhand pass to Navis that left him a one-touch shot into the open net.
The second period showed only one goal. Kacer finished off a Michael Tinetti to Matt Ritchie feed to put Georgia up 5-2.
Early in the third Navis returned the favor on a pass to Kacer that he deposited into the Bama net to put Georgia up 6-2. Kacer then netted his third in a row for the natural hat-trick when he rifled a power play one-time slap shot on a second assist from Matt Ritchie’s feed across the blue line cementing the Ice Dawgs victory. Bama managed two late period power play goals, one on a 5-on-3 advantage, to bring the final score to 7-4.
“This was quite possibly the best game we played all season,” commented an elated Paul Connors after receiving his player of the game award. An unusual start to the game with several players missing from the Georgia line-up didn’t phase the Dogs as fresh legs seemed to drive the early run for UGA. An unusual lineup hit the ice in the third period as well minus Lee Bosma which landed senior Matt McClure on defense.
Five Ice Dawgs played their final game at UGA: Lee Bosma, Michael Gabelman, Eric Patel, Matt Ritchie, and first year player Bill Jankowski all will graduate this spring and will be missed by the Dawgs next year.
Georgia finishes 12-12-1 on the season finding some bright stars as they look ahead to the 2011-12 season.