Coming off a big weekend in Savannah, placing second in the 20th edition of the Savannah Tire Hockey Classic, the Jackets had a quick week of turnaround before they headed on the road yet again…only this time to Nashville, TN.
The Nashville road trip is a regular for GT Hockey. Typically played in the early weeks of October, the Scholar Shootout, hosted by Vanderbilt’s Hockey team at the Ford Ice Center, had a little bit a change up in the 2017-18 season after being moved to the second week of the spring semester. The Jackets looked to use this timing to their advantage and take the momentum they had from a 2nd place finish with them to Nashville.
On the first night of games, GT faced off against the hosting Vanderbilt Commodores. The Commodores, multi-year winners of the Scholar Shootout tourney were an important opponent in the minds of Tech players and coaches. In fact, just two years ago, Vandy took home the first prize in a goal differential decision despite the Jackets have a 3-0 record in the tournament. This year would be different. The game got off to a good start for the Jackets who took a 1-0 lead into the 1st intermission off of a goal from Karl Risley #12 and the first line. In the 2nd period, the Jackets continued to pressure the Vandy goal, who was by far the best Commodore on the ice. With an onslaught of shots, GT eventually find the net on goals from Michael Leon #8 and Joey Schutz #5. In the 3rd period, Vanderbilt looked to try to pull something out of their sleeve and destroy there 3-0 deficit. Senior goalie, Zach Cernich #31 turned away countless shots for the Jackets, but it just wasn’t enough as Vandy was able to put two goals away in quick succession due to defensive breakdowns. Score sat at 3-2 in the final minute of play. That was until Michael Markwordt #3 was able to seal the deal with an empty net goal leaving the Jackets with a 4-2 win in the first game of the tournament.
Game 2 of the Scholar Shootout pitted the Yellow Jackets against an ACHA DII opponent in the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Though seemingly daunting, GT has taken on and defeated DII in the past and they were determined to do it again. However, things started off horribly for the Jackets as just 57 seconds into the game, Wake Forest was able to go top shelf off of a defensive miscommunication. This wouldn’t be enough to halt the resilient Jacket team as they stormed back to get the tying goal like they have done countless times before. This time Michael Markwordt #3 got the tying tally. This goal opened the door for the Jackets as they were able to tack on 2 more before the period’s end from Karl Risley #12 and Drew Wallace #23. The Demon Decons got a late goal of their own on the power play to send the game to the locker room at a 3-2 score. The 2nd and 3rd periods were both chess matches. Defense was the name of the game as neither team was able to put up many goals aside from the one 2nd period score from Karl Risley #12 to give the Jackets a 4-2 lead. Things remained 4-2 until the dying minutes when our resident man-down specialist, Ben Lublin #11, was able to beat out an icing from Brandon Holt #10, and slide the puck into the back of an empty net to put the icing on the cake. GT Hockey held strong in this contest, winning by a score of 5-2.
With two games in the bag, the boys spent the night on the town. They headed to downtown Nashville after the game for not only a bite to eat and some good live music, but also to watch the Nashville Predators take on the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. It was quite a game and a fun team outing as the Preds were able to hold on against the Panthers by a score of 3-2. After the game, several of the GT players and coach went downstairs to chat with the Florida Panthers Goalie Coach, Robb Tallas. It was quite the eventful day!
Day 3 had arrived and it hit the team square in the face. An early morning rise for an 8 AM game was something college hockey players don’t see much of anymore after their days of youth travel hockey. However, that didn’t stop the team from looking for their third straight win over another ACHA DII opponent in the UNC Tar Heels. Like the previous game, the opposing team got out to a good start, roofing one over the Jacket tender to gain the 1-0 lead within the first two minutes. Tech didn’t let this discourage them. They woke up and threw the biggest barrage of shots on the Heel’s goalie. By the closing buzzer of the 1st period, GT was up by a score of 5-1, scoring all 5 of their goals on just the first 7 shots of the game. Those 5 goals were scored by Cael Cernich #21, Ben Lublin #11, Tom Patrick #7 (2), Jacob Rankin #18, and Michael Brzozowski #17. The 2nd period saw goals from Alex Chen #16 and Kevin Polak #25 in addition to one tally from the UNC side sending the game into the 2nd intermission at an 8-2 score. As time ticked away, the Jackets prepped to get the long-awaited giant pencil trophy. The Tar Heels were able to add just two more to their total ending the game at a score of 8-4.
The Jackets had come away victorious. One 3 win weekend and 1 giant pencil trophy later and Tech was headed back home with a solid weekend under their belts. This weekend was big for GT Hockey in terms of rankings and mentality. They will await this week’s rankings one Wednesday and they will also try to carry their 3-game win streak into this weekend as they face off at home on Saturday against the South Carolina Gamecocks and Sunday outdoors in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs.