History of the Gators and the Thrasher Cup
The Gators have competed in this tournament since it started in 1999 and have won the Thrasher Cup three times, the most recent being in 2015. The Gators will take on the University of Georgia on Jan. 13 and face Florida State the following evening.
Because of the history surrounding the tournament, it’s a pretty big deal to the team.
“Alumni come back for it, and everyone has it marked on their calendars from the start of the season”, said President of the team, Brendan Nicholson.
Though the team wasn’t able to lift the Thrasher Cup last year, Captain Daniel Clifford said just getting to play in such a historic tournament was a great experience.
Head coach of five years Mike Marcinkiewicz thinks this is the year the Gators will reclaim the Cup. He said the crowd at the Savannah Civic Center will hopefully give the team the momentum they need to beat rivals Georgia and Florida State.
A Slow Start to the Season
The Gators got off to a rough start, going 0-5-1 in their first six games. But their first win of the season was a big one; they beat Tennessee 10-1.
They followed that up with a second win against Tennessee and a victory over the University of South Carolina. After that three-game win streak, the Gators lost their last two games.
A big issue for the team has always been the location of their home rink. The Gators’ home ice is in Jacksonville, so they’re only able to practice once a week. Clifford said there are still a lot of fans that go out to Jacksonville to support them but location definitely makes it more difficult. Coach Marcinkiewicz said he’d love for a rink in Gainesville to open up, but until then, home ice will remain in Jacksonville.
Getting the chemistry going has also been a problem for the team. The Gators are without a few key players this year and have been working to get the flow of their game back.
Clifford said it’s been difficult for players to adjust, especially playing against teams who have been together for years, but the team is confident that they’ll find a way to win.
Another aspect that has helped the team play better together has been the players interacting off the ice. Clifford said little things like getting together and playing basketball has really helped the team get closer. He said that after the team started hanging out off the ice, they noticed a big difference in their game and the Gators were able to take home some wins.
Assistant coach, Landon Gatz, said winning this tournament could give the team the momentum they need to finish the season off strong.
Prepping to Win
The Gators are now in gear training hard for the upcoming tournament. To prepare, the team is holding normal practices, conditioning and watching film in order to make sure they’re ready to take on two of their biggest rivals.
Nicholson said a strength of the team is how committed the players are and their respect for each other on and off the ice. He also talked about the team’s strong work ethic. The Gators believe they can beat any team they face and that confidence goes a long way.
The Savannah Tire Winter Classic will definitely prove to be exciting hockey. Center Brian Miller leads the team with eight goals, five of which he scored in the Gators 10-1 win over Tennessee. Captain Daniel Clifford leads the team in assists with 10 and Zane Katz leads the team in points with 13.
Even though a lot of UF students still don’t know the school has a hockey team, at least John Buccigross and SportsCenter do.