Following sixty minutes of action packed and exhausting play in front of an overflow crowd at The ICE in Cumming, GA, in a rivalry game that encountered seven equalizing or lead changing goals, the Yellowjackets from Ga. Tech slid home an empty-net goal with :07 seconds remaining to seal a 6-4 win over a depleted Georgia team.
“This was one of the best battles on the ice between these two teams in the past decade,” Georgia coach John Hoos commented. “The fans were great and their enthusiasm was energizing for the players, and every ounce of effort was left out on that ice tonight by our guys.”
In a game that was “senior night” for both teams, two graduating seniors for Georgia and one for Tech were honored before the game. Captain Matt McClure and goaltender and alternate captain Paul Connors were visible leaders throughout the contest. Even after sustaining a shoulder injury that sidelined him for much of the game, McClure remained on the bench to rally his teammates. Connors got the nod to start in the nets against Tech for the first time in his three year career – an honor he earned through vast improvement from hard work according to coach Hoos.
Although faced with a shortened bench from injuries, the Bulldogs came out leading the play and controlling the game physically. An early debatable elbowing penalty on the 6’5″ Jared Reeves slowed the Dawgs momentum, but stellar goaltendeing from Connors and swarming defense around the UGA goal kept the Jackets off the board, and several closely missed opportunities offensively for Georgia kept the first period scoreless.
The Jackets struck first in the second period just three minutes in on a low shot from Tech’s McCrary. Four minutes later Tech’s Galli put GT up 2-0 after UGA’s Terrana was stripped of the puck in front of the Georgia goal crease. The Dawgs were not to be denied, and Terrana would make up for his rare misplay with the puck. However it was Georgia’s Cam Navis with a rifle shot to the upper left corner on the power-play that cut the lead to 2-1.
Two minutes later it was Terrana’s turn, ripping home a slap-shot from the top of the circles on a Georgia 5-on-3 power play to even the score. The Dawgs then took the lead as Peter Kacer snapped home the third power play goal of the period lifting Georgia to a 3-2. With just :52 seconds remaining in the second period the Jackets knotted the score at 3 on McCrary’s second tally of the game on a point blank shot after beating the Georgia defender in front of Connors.
The third period unfolded in Georgia’s favor at first. After exchanging opportunities at both ends, including some dramatic saves by Layer in the Tech goal on several Georgia power play attempts, Ryan Terrana joined the offensive attack and finished a tic-tac-toe play from Navis and Kacer to put Georgia up once again at 4-3.
Unfortunately the lead only lasted until 5:26 remaining when Gali punched home a rebound goal to tie the game. After stymieing another Georgia opportunity, Tech regained the lead with 3:56 left in the game on shot from Tech’s Roberts.
The Dawgs tried to rally in the remaining minutes, including pulling Connors in favor of an extra attacker with a minute to go, but the Jackets repelled Georgia’s attacks and a lengthy shot found it’s way into the empty Georgia net making the final 6-4.
Georgia continues on with SEC play next weekend when they travel to Nashville on Saturday, Feb. 11 to take on Vanderbilt in a game that will decide 2nd place in the SECHC East division. Georgia has already qualified for the SEC hockey tournament in Huntsville, AL Feb. 24-26.