Courtesy of The Red&Black
By Kristin Miller
As the football team travels down to Jacksonville for one of the most anticipated games of the season, the Georgia club hockey team prepares to play Florida on the ice.
“Both schools work together to schedule it this way,” head coach John Hoos said. “It gets the players really excited to be a part of the Georgia Florida weekend.”
Georgia is ranked fourth in the SEC, while Florida is the top-ranked team. Friday marks the 18th year the Georgia versus Florida hockey game has been scheduled on the same weekend as the Georgia versus Florida football game.
Hoos does not have to say much to get his players excited for the game. Winning gives the victorious team bragging rights for the entire year, and that is enough to spur the teams to a more competitive edge.
“I don’t have to tell them much. Most of the players know what the rivalry is all about,” Hoos said. “There is already a lot of excitement and animosity between the two teams, and it really gets the players pumped up.”
Georgia’s Kyle Blankenship, who was voted by players and coaches as the team captain, said he enjoys making the trip down to Jacksonville. He has taken a vocal role this week, trying to get his team prepared for the game.
“We just came off a good win against Tennessee, and I have been telling the players to remember how great that win felt,” the senior defenseman said. “It is important for the team to stay in a positive mindset.”
Blankenship said keeping a winning mentality will help the team play to their full potential.
“We need to continue to move the puck north and not get stuck in the defensive zone,” Blankenship said. “If we move the puck well, get shots off net, and keep a positive mindset, we should be able to win.”
Playing competitively is not enough to satisfy the Ice Dogs — they want to leave with a win.
“We especially want to win on Friday because Florida has beaten us the last few games played in Jacksonville,” he said. “It would be nice to break that Florida tradition with a win of our own.”
Senior defenseman Henri Oddi also shares the desire to beat Florida.
“My favorite thing is to make Florida lose,” Oddi said. “I love seeing the look on their faces after we come away with a win.”
Georgia has fallen to Florida the past two years in Jacksonville. Oddi and the rest of the team are inspired to change the score line this year.
“There is a great atmosphere in the rink, and we look forward to going down to Florida every year,” Oddi said. “We have lost in Florida the past two years, and we are looking forward to changing that and giving them a loss.”
Junior forward Peter Kacer said Florida has “a good team every year,” but that he welcomed the competition.
“I enjoy playing against competitive teams,” Kacer said. “Having the hockey game and football game only one day apart makes me even more excited.”
Kacer said the crowd in Jacksonville is one of the most exciting aspects of the weekend.
“Lots of fans come to the game because there are a lot of die-hard fans for both teams who travel to Jacksonville,” he said. “When you hear those names together it makes people excited to watch no matter what sport is being played.”
This rivalry weekend will begin long before Saturday afternoon’s football kickoff. Hoos said he encourages the fans to visit the sportsplex and cheer on the Georgia hockey team.
“We will have a lot of fans down there for the football game, and it would be great to have the fans come and support the team.”
Georgia will face off against Florida at the Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex Friday at 9:45 pm.