The University of Tampa club hockey team is a force to be reckoned with in the second half of their season. Going into last weekend, the Spartans were ranked tenth in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) South Region in their fight for the regional tournament.
UT continued their winning ways after sweeping a two game home series against the Florida State Seminoles at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum. In the first game, the Spartans trailed early 1-0 off a deflection that went past sophomore goalie Christian Hamlett. As the game went along, the floodgates opened in the Spartans’ favor as freshman left winger Matthew Antonacci scored a hat trick on the way to a 9-2 victory over the Seminoles.
To cap off the weekend, UT continued their domination of the Seminoles as they won the series finale 8-2 after trailing early on once again. Antonacci and junior forward Evan Stawarz lead the way as they both had two-goal performances.
“Two huge wins against Florida State last weekend really pushed us forward,” said sophomore defenseman Alexander Carde. “Whenever we get wins against big-name schools, we are pumped. There are a lot of intensity in those games.”
This past weekend, the Spartans hit a roadblock when facing off against the University of Miami. Injuries began to pile up for the Spartans as they were missing three of the five starting defensemen and three forwards as well. After the end of the first period, the Spartans were tied against the Hurricanes after a goal by senior forward Corey Tudor.
After the first period, as the Hurricanes broke the game wide open. As the Spartans’ deficit kept increasing they were unable to put in their senior goalie Craig Lemrow because he was out due to an illness. In the end, the Spartans were routed by the Hurricanes by a final score of 13-3.
However, the Spartans were able to salvage the road trip with a 5-5 tie against Miami. Antonacci posted another great performance by tallying four goals. At the end of the night, Antonacci’s had 47 goals on the season. Antonacci has two more games to reach the milestone of having a 50-goal season. Carde goes in depth about Antonacci’s stellar season. “Being the leading scorer in the nation, he is able to either take a game over on his own or score a goal that sparks the rest of the team.”
Antonacci provides his input on the milestone: “The scoring title is something that I really would like to get but most importantly, I want our team to make its first trip to regionals. I wouldn’t of had a chance at scoring 50 goals if not for my teammates and especially my linemates.”
Even though the Spartans came off of a disappointing weekend, there is a legitimate possibility for them to make the postseason. “The University of Miami series was not what we hoped for but a tie in the second game gives us life,” Antonacci said. Overall, the Spartans have just two more games left in the regular season and find out if they make the ACHA South regional tournament on Friday. Regardless, UT is looking to finish on a high note as they take on the University of South Florida in a home and home series this weekend.
“Both of this week’s practices will be crucial in keeping our momentum going forward,” Antonacci said. “If we continue to work hard and improve then we should be able to come out strong and have a good series against USF.”
Phil Novotny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org