By Alexis Johnson
Traveling to ice over 300 miles away from home, the University of Georgia Ice Dawgs faced off against the Vanderbilt University Commodores for the first time in five years.
When arriving at the Ford Ice Center Bellevue in Nashville, Tennessee, Georgia looked to add two more wins onto their 4-1 record.
Game one: Friday, October 13
The Ice Dawgs demonstrated noticeable physicality and dominance right off the bat, getting pucks in deep and keeping them there, but with nothing to show for it.
Vanderbilt, however, managed to capitalize on their few scoring opportunities, racking up two back-to-back goals less than halfway into the period.
Despite the frustration evident in the moments leading up to the first intermission, the Ice Dawgs maintained their composure, confident in their ability to make a comeback.
“Nobody doubted we could come back,” captain Robby Witwer said about the team’s morale. “It’s really good to have that kind of resilience and confidence. We needed to clean up the mistakes and get back to our game. When we do that, we succeed.”
And that’s just what they did. Georgia came into the second period hot with a much needed goal from David Eberly, assisted by Sam Adler, officially putting the Dawgs on the board.
Within two minutes, the score was tied up, 2-2, thanks to a nasty wrister from Declan Conway, who certainly made his return from injury a memorable one.
“It felt great to be back on the bench surrounded by my teammates,” Conway said. “The energy and excitement the team brought that was created through everyone staying positive and picking each other up on the bench despite us facing a deficit heading into the second period contributed to our comeback and has been a major factor in the team’s success this year.”
The Ice Dawgs continued their unanswered score streak with a power play goal from Dylan Punzenburger with an assist from Luke Burnett late in the second, giving them their first lead of the game and Punzenberger’s first goal of the season.
This newfound momentum did nothing but increase as Josh Mesaros immediately followed up with a huge rebound and effectively doubled the lead for the Ice Dawgs.
Third period play allowed the Dawgs to pick up where they left off with similar momentum and a four-on-four power play goal from Evan Parente, assisted by Dylan Spicer, which extended Georgia’s score to five.
The Commodores were able to retaliate, stumping the Dawgs’ unanswered goal streak and upping their score to three.
Tensions remained high until the final horn, but even after their rocky start, the Ice Dawgs prevailed over the Vanderbilt Commodores, closing out the first game of the series with a final score of 5-3.
Game two: Sunday, October 15
The Ice Dawgs continued their series against the Vanderbilt Commodores Sunday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee.
Georgia’s start to the second game of the series proved much better than the first with them exhibiting their usual speed and physical presence.
Georgia maintained consistent pressure, puck possession and presence in the O-zone throughout the first 20 minutes of game play, though the score remained 0-0.
Second period action also came up goalless despite the Ice Dawgs continuing to dominate in shots on goal and stamina.
Fans and players alike had their hope piqued as a rebound from Dylan Punzenburger appeared to make its way across the goalline, but was unfortunately waved off by the linesman referee.
With the score still standing at 0-0 to start the third, the last 20 minutes of the game were crucial.
The Commodores’ Dominick Kamssu tapped in the first goal of the day, but was quickly responded to with a Georgia power play goal from Lleyton Poole, assisted by Jack Gannon, which brought the score from goose eggs to 1-1.
As both teams eyed the possibility of overtime, Alexander Strauss eyed the puck, cashing in his first goal of the past two seasons, with an assist from James Hedquist, giving the Ice Dawgs their first lead of the game with only a minute left in regulation.
“For me personally it was huge to get that monkey off my back, but to do it in such a big moment for the team felt unreal,” Strauss said about his game-winning goal.
With that eventful end to the third period, the University of Georgia Ice Dawgs outlasted the Vanderbilt University Commodores 2-1 to sweep the weekend series 2-0.
With two more wins on their record, the Ice Dawgs travel to Long Island, New York. They will compete against Farmingdale State University on Friday and Saturday and Quinnipiac on Sunday.