By: Jarrod Heil
The UCF Knights ice hockey team has improved to 7-1 after splitting a series against the University of Alabama over the weekend. It was a hard fought, physical series in Orlando which included plenty of action, penalties and grit from both sides.
“We knew coming in they were going to be a tough matchup,” Senior Matt Pierson said.
The first game was offensively dominated by UCF as they outshot the Frozen Tide 37-25, but could not pull out a victory. UCF gave up two power play goals and a shorthanded tally in route to a 4-3 loss.
Special teams played a huge part in game one. Both teams surrendered six power play chances to the opposition. Alabama capitalized on their chances as they notched two power play tallies on six tries – one came during five-on-three action. UCF switched power play systems before the game, and went one-for-six with the man advantage.
“We tried something a little different [on the power play in the first game],” Alternate captain Jacob Solomon said. “It just wasn’t something we were comfortable with yet.”
The second game was an edge-of-the-seat kind of night as UCF held on to win by a score of 4-3. Bama came out of the gates fighting and quickly put the Knights in a hole 2-0. UCF responded that call with four unanswered goals that proved to be enough to prevent Bama from a sweep.
“It shows what kind of character we have in our locker room, among our young guys and our older guys,” Alternate captain Tony Bruno said. “To keep our heads together, not get down on each other.”
UCF goaltender Kyle Scorcia kept his team afloat as he made 31 saves, including a Dominic Hasek-like windmill stop with 0.8 seconds left on the clock at the end of the third period while Bama’s net was empty for the extra attacker.
“I just went down,” Scorcia said. “[It was] just instinct, just happened.”
The Knights continued to take penalties during the second game but were able to shut down the Bama power play on five-of-six chances.
“It’s definitely very big,” Senior Brian Lerro said. “[Scorcia] played a strong game and that’s really all we can hope for [while playing a man down].”
At the end of the weekend the series was tied at seven goals apiece and one win for each side. UCF continued to outshoot their opponents as they put up 71 shots to Alabama’s 59.
The competition between the two teams within the past three years remains strong. UCF leads the rivalry with a 4-3-1 record. Through the last eight games against each other, both teams have notched 26 goals.