Hockey team wins tourney, splits next two games

For the second time in the past three years, the Tech hockey team returned from its annual trip to Savannah as the champion of the Savannah Hockey Classic. The Jackets held off Florida State 4-2 on Friday, Jan. 14 and took down Georgia 4-1 the following day to claim the Thrasher Cup. Tech followed up by splitting a pair of games over the past weekend, and overall the team improved to 15-3 on the season.
Tech’s roster had improved considerably in both talent and depth from the previous season, but the Jackets did not expect to cruise to victory—largely because every other team at the Classic had improved as well.
“Of the four teams that were there, three were ranked: Florida [No. 13], Florida State [No. 14] and Georgia Tech [No. 7]. And Georgia had new players, so it was a situation where all four teams were very equal…Everybody had something to lose,” said Assistant Coach Paul Gattung.
The Jan. 14 match against FSU was the second meeting between the teams this season. In the first contest in late October, the Jackets weathered a late FSU comeback and got the game-winning goal with less than two minutes left for a 6-5 victory. This game was similarly close throughout.
Tech drew first blood fairly quickly, as junior winger and co-captain Ryan Fritz scored on an assist from junior Matt Zaske just 3:07 into the game. It was the only goal of the opening period; the next score came courtesy of FSU forward Patrick Nolan, who tied the game up midway through the second period.
But both teams were relatively quiet offensively through the first 40 minutes. The Seminoles only registered 17 shots and the Jackets had just 13 over that stretch, resulting in the relatively low scoring output.
The offense picked up in the third period for both teams. With 15:29 left in the game, junior center and assistant captain Zack Berry gave the Jackets a 2-1 lead with a goal off an assist from sophomore defenseman Alan Dagesse. However, the Jackets were unable to add any insurance before FSU’s Trip Fessenden took advantage of a power play and scored the equalizer with 7:18 left.
The deciding goal came courtesy of Tech freshman winger Michael McKinney, who picked up the rebound from a Berry shot and scored past massive FSU goalie Blake Wladyka with 6:03 remaining in the game.
Tech was able to control the puck for much of the period; after being out-shot in each of the first two periods, the Jackets had 18 shots to just 9 for FSU over the final period, and Tech goalie C.J. Layer stopped everything else that went his way for the remainder of the period. After FSU pulled its goalie for an extra skater in the final minute, Tech senior winger Jeremy Spafard iced the game with an empty-net goal.
Though the Jackets had already notched a victory over UGA earlier in the season, the Savannah win marked the next step in avenging the previous year’s season sweep by the Bulldogs.
“We knew we were the best team there, but we [also] knew we still had to go out and show it,” said senior center and team president Marcus Lostracco. “The seniors that were on board for the last win in Savannah have [also] been through losing Savannah and losing in overtime to Georgia [last season]. This was our last chance to go in there and make it ours…We knew we could do it.”
As far as the roster was concerned, the Jackets got a major boost for the rivalry game. Senior goalie Maxx Lucas, who suffered a knee injury in Tech’s loss to Central Florida in November, returned to make the start against the Bulldogs.
“That [UGA] game was Maxx’s game all the way, as the senior goalie,” Gattung said.
As the game began, Tech quickly gave Lucas a cushion. Less than three minutes into the contest, Zaske rifled a shot into the net for an unassisted goal, and the Jackets led 1-0 early. Tech added a second goal near the end of the period when senior center Michael Midgette scored his first goal of the Classic with 2:30 left until the intermission; McKinney and sophomore defenseman Bobby Bishop had assists on the play.
UGA out-shot Tech in the second period, but Lucas was strong in goal and neither team scored, so Tech carried its 2-0 lead into the final period.
After an early scoreless stretch, the Bulldogs cut into the Jackets’ lead. During a 4-on-4 stretch, UGA forward Cam Navis scored, making the score 2-1 in favor of Tech with 6:16 left. However, it was the only goal the Bulldogs would muster in the game.
Berry gave Tech some insurance with a goal just over a minute later, with Fritz and Zaske picking up assists. The Jackets maintained the 3-1 lead into the final minutes, and ultimately UGA pulled its goalie. The move backfired; Tech senior defenseman Dan Podratsky picked up the puck and passed to Lostracco, who scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory. Tech won the game 4-1 and took home its sixth Thrasher Cup.
The Greg Stathis Trophy, awarded to the tournament MVP and named in honor of the longtime Tech coach, was awarded to Lucas for his performance against UGA.
In a pair of home games the following weekend, Tech stumbled against South Carolina but followed up with a double-digit win over Emory.
The USC game saw the teams try different approaches on the attack; the Jackets attempted most of their shots while directly in line with the goal, while the USC players tended to take shots from various angles with respect to the net. With Layer playing well in goal early on, Tech jumped out to a 4-2 lead midway through the second period, with forward Derek von Zweck scoring two of the four goals for the Jackets, but USC battled back; the Gamecocks got two goals to close out the second period and added the go-ahead score midway through the third period for a 5-4 game victory.
Tech rebounded with an easy victory the following afternoon over Emory. While Emory had put up a fight in the season opener, with Tech winning 3-2, the Eagles had just nine skaters for this weekend’s game and had also played the previous night. Tech jumped on the exhausted Emory squad early, scoring six goals in the first period en route to a 15-1 drubbing.
Lucas was in goal for the Emory game but saw little action. The Jackets were dominant from start to finish, recording 107 shots to just nine for Emory. For Tech, 10 players scored goals—with Dagesse leading the way with a hat trick—and nine players recorded assists, including Lucas.
At 15-3, the Jackets will head to Richmond, Va. for a key weekend tournament.
All three of their games this weekend will be against ranked opponents: the Jackets, who are No. 7 in the ACHA Division III South region, will face No. 12 Richmond, No. 5 Loyola and No. 10 UNC-Wilmington.

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