ATHENS & SAVANNAH – After finishing off the Fall 2015 semester with six straight wins, pushing their record to 13-2-1 overall, the Ice Dogs stretched their winning streak to nine games with wins over Life University, Florida, and Georgia Tech to open the first week of the new semester.
In the victory over Life, the Ice Dogs closed out their home schedule for the season in impressive fashion, giving the Running Eagles more than they could handle, winning 7-1. Georgia was led by forward Christopher Santa Maria who tallied three goals in the victory. Forwards Michael Falkenstein and Eric Mauge each had a goal and an assist as well.
After closing out their home schedule, the Ice Dogs turned to face their two biggest rivals in the 2016 Savannah Tire Hockey Classic. The four team tournament in Savannah, Georgia has been dubbed “The Beanpot of the South” since its inception in 1999. In addition to the Ice Dogs, Florida, Florida State and Georgia Tech make up the set of teams that play two games each for the right to hoist the Thrasher Cup, named for the former National Hockey League team, the Atlanta Thrashers, who began play the same year as the Savannah Hockey Classic.
The round robin tournament features four games, two Friday and two Saturday on Martin Luther King weekend at the Savannah Civic Center. The Ice Dogs always play Florida and Georgia Tech for their two weekend games with Florida playing Florida State in addition to Georgia and Georgia Tech opening the weekend with FSU. The team with the best record at the end of the weekend wins the coveted Thrasher Cup.
In Friday’s matchup, the Ice Dogs won an overtime thriller over Florida, 5-4 clinching a perfect 6-0 Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference record to finish first in SECHC regular season play. Santa Maria clinched the victory just a few minutes into 4 v 4 overtime beating the Gators goaltender off of a feed from his linemate Zach Flasch for his second goal of the evening. In regulation, Georgia and Florida battled back and forth with neither team ever giving the other much breathing room throughout the contest with the lead never being larger than one goal. Santa Maria earned Player of the Game honors for Georgia. The Ice Dogs’ other three goals came from Mauge, Ryan Bray, and Dixon Babb in the contest.
After the thrilling victory over Florida, Georgia turned its attention to instate rival Georgia Tech and closing out the weekend with the team’s first undefeated Savannah weekend in a decade and bring home a tournament best seventh best Thrasher Cup.
From the opening puck drop, the Ice Dogs dominated the Jackets in every facet of the game as they demolished Georgia Tech 8-2 in front of a sold out Savannah Civic Center. Captain Alex Carey and Falkenstein led the way on the scoresheet with two goals each with Mauge assisting on both of Falkenstein’s goals, the second of which turned out to be the game-winner. Ryan Bray also had a multipoint night with a goal and an assist as they Ice Dogs took the third and final matchup with Georgia Tech this season, thus taking the season series 2-1.
With Ice Dogs and Florida State each going 2-0 on the weekend, the Thrasher Cup victor came down to the first tiebreaker of goals against. Unfortunately for Georgia, Florida State allowed two fewer goals and were deemed 2016 Thrasher Cup Champions with the Ice Dogs finishing second in the tournament. This same tiebreaker benefitted Georgia in 2013 when all teams finished the Savannah Tire Hockey Classic 1-1, but the Ice Dogs had allowed 7 goals, one fewer than Georgia Tech.
The weekend was the first 2-0 Savannah weekend for the Ice Dogs since 2007 when the team won its fourth straight and fifth overall Thrasher Cup. The Ice Dogs have won the Thrasher Cup six times, the second-most of all-time and hold the record for consecutive Savannah Tire Hockey Classic championships with four in a row (2004-2007).
The Ice Dogs return to the ice to close out their regular season schedule with games the next two Fridays in a row, January 22 @ Kennesaw State and January 29 @ Vanderbilt. For the latest news and information on your UGA Ice Dogs, check back to UGAHockey.com and be sure to LIKE and FOLLOW the team @UGAHockey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.