The Hockey Cats took care of business in their first-ever SEC Tournament game with a win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Kentucky came out hot in the first period with a 2-0 lead with goals from freshman center Brandon Spindlow and senior forward Beck Schultz. The Wildcats came out sluggish in the second period after being on a bus for threes hours from Lexington to the Ford Ice Center in Nashville. The Cats allowed the Gamecocks to score two quick goals midway through the second period after freshman defender Ryan Duffy had to go to the box for two minutes for hooking, which made it four on three hockey.
With 8:30 to go in the second Schultz scored a goal which put the Cats up 3-2, but not even 10 seconds later USC answered the bell with a goal at 8:21 to tie the score 3-3.
The senior Schultz knew the Cats came out a little flat in the second period, thinking it was caused by a combination of first-time nerves and being on a bus for three hours.
“This game was no doubt different for us,” Schultz said. “This is our first year in the SEC and our first time ending the year with the SEC tournament. The team, myself included were definitely nervous and didn’t really know what to expect. We went out and popped a couple goals in the first, but when they tied it up in the second period, we knew that we had a game and that it wasn’t going to be a simple walk in the park.”
The third period was a way different story to tell, as Kentucky came out firing on all cylinders. Carolina did score the first goal in the third period which made the score 4-3, but that would be their last goal of the game. Schultz knotted it up at four with 15:40 to go in the game and it was smooth sailing from there.
Two minutes later DeAngelis scored to put the Cats back on top 5-4. The Wildcats went on the power play at 12:49 and couldn’t seem to stop putting the puck in the net after that.
Kentucky would go onto win 9-4, and Schultz knew that positive attitudes in the third would lead this team to a victory.
“The most impactful thing that made a difference in the third period was our positivity,” Schultz said. “We got into the locker room between the second and third period and all looked at each other and knew that we couldn’t change what had happened during the first and the second period, but we knew that we could make a difference in the third. Instead of getting down, we picked one another up and went to work. We were positive going into the third period with our heads looking up and our minds moving forward. That is how we came out in the third period and did so well!”
Freshman forward Jordon Shannon, who has been an enormous impact on the Cats this season, had two huge goals in the third period and loved being part of UK’s first ever SEC Tournament win.
“It’s always nice to help the team win, regardless of whether I score or not,” Shannon said. “Getting the job done is important to me, I’m just glad the boys came together in the third period to get the big win! It felt great being apart of UK hockey history and starting the tournament off well!”
Head coach of the Wildcats, Tim Pergram, thought the boys came out with “nervous energy,” but kicked it into gear in the third period.
“We had road legs and still had nervous energy from playing first SEC tourney game,” Pergram said. “In the third, we decide to play, pass, skate and score. It felt great for the boys, coaches and GM’s (to win the first SEC Tournament game in school history) our record is 20-7-1 and 7-0 in the SEC these guys were 3-20 last year.”
This one was all @Kentucky_Hockey in the third period! Cats win this one 9-4!! Game tomorrow will be at 5 pm CST against the winner of No. 2 Arkansas or No. 7 Vanderbilt! Playing for this bad boy! pic.twitter.com/vjOdyzAek3
— Alex Holder (@Alex_Holder_KSR) February 9, 2018
The Cats will play the winner of No. 7 Vanderbilt and No. 2 Arkansas at 5 pm CST at the Ford Ice Center tomorrow for a chance to play in their first ever SEC Championship game on Sunday.