The Jackets concluded their excellent regular season by splitting games with Kennesaw State University, extending the win streak to 9 consecutive games before suffering a thrilling loss by only 1 goal. Georgia Tech anticipates a substantial rise in the rankings from 9th after the win Friday over KSU, as the Owls were ranked 3rd prior to the game. Speed and hustle have shaped the Jackets’ identity this year as a team, which fostered an interesting matchup with the power and physicality of Kennesaw State.
Friday night’s victory came down to near flawless execution of the forecheck, and an outstanding goaltending performance by #30 Caleb Rudnicki. #18 Jacob Rankin drew first blood early in the 1st period, capitalizing on a speed mismatch between KSU’s defender and #7 Tom Petrick, who carried the puck wide to the crease, resulting in a textbook rebound goal for the Jackets. Although Georgia Tech controlled the puck for most of the 1st period, the scoreboard favored the Owl’s 1-2. It was not until late in the second period that the Jackets struck again, tying up the score with an odd man rush goal by defenseman #23 Drew Wallace, and taking the lead by burying yet another rebound by the hand of #12 Karl Risley. Georgia Tech embodied a strong defensive presence in the 3rd period, fending off Kennesaw State, allowing #10 Brandon Holt an open-netter to seal the game 4-2.
Seniors #5 Joey Schutz, #29 Nick Bello, #6 Thomas Wraback, #23 Drew Wallace, and #31 Zach Cernich were recognized before Saturday night’s game for their contributions to the Georgia Tech Ice Hockey team on and off the ice throughout their years at Tech. While KSU secured a narrow 4-3 victory, the Jacket’s fought hard for the seniors during their last home game ever. Georgia Tech came out of the gates skating fast and hard, but a few deflection goals rendered the Jacket’s down by 3 heading into the 3rd. Following a coincidental penalty, #25 Kevin Polak and #3 Michael Markwordt sparked an offensive comeback with a backdoor baseball bat deflection. Defenseman #9 Zach Maciejewski held his blueline keeping the puck in the zone following a crucial faceoff win, which allowed #25 Kevin Polak to cycle the puck to the high slot before unloading a wrist shot wide left to be batted in by #3 Michael Markwordt for the Jacket’s first goal. Polak racked up some more points, assisting all 3 goals, as #4 Zach Gauvin registered the next 2 goals. #31 Zach Cernich held his own in net alongside defenseman #27 Matthew Jones, both of which saved Georgia Tech from several goals against that would otherwise have resulted from crease skirmishes with KSU. Unfortunately, the Jackets emerged with their first loss in 10 games, the only loss of the second half of their nearly unblemished season.
With the ACHA South Regional Tournament approaching on February 23rd at the Florida Hospital Ice Center, the Jacket’s have some time to rest and prepare for their first Regionals appearance since 2008. Georgia Tech does not shy away when the stage gets bigger, evidenced by the hardware they brought home from the Savannah Tire Hockey Classic, the Scholar Shootout in Nashville, and the ACC South Tournament in Atlanta. As Assistant Coach Colin Roberts put it in the locker room during the second game of the weekend, “Let’s overcome adversity, and win this thing.”