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Hockey splits first real test of the season

By Josh Brannock

With a four-game winning streak on the line, UNF faced its toughest opponent to date — possibly of the entire season — and came away with a two-game split.

Division II hockey powerhouse Life University brought its club from Marietta, Ga., to the Jacksonville Ice and Sportsplex Sept. 30 for a weekend double-dip. UNF took the first game in thrilling fashion, 7-6, but fell in game two Oct. 1, 8-5.

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The Ospreys dominated in shots in both games by a combined total of 99 to 39 but couldn’t stick the puck in the back of the net enough to remain undefeated on the year.

Even though the scores may not show it, assistant coach Hans King said he was coaching the better team.

“We outplayed and outhustled them out there,” King said. “The refs disallowed three goals and gave Life a goal that didn’t even go in the net.”

No one in the complex will easily forget game one. UNF started off the game fast and furious as Gerry Dunne and Brett Meyers both lit the lamp for a 2-0 lead.

Life wasn’t down for long as it came back and scored three goals to finish off the first period ahead, 3-2.

The second period wasn’t strong for the Ospreys, as Life took advantage of inexperienced goaltender Matt Wiesner. Life scored three unanswered goals after a trade-off of goals to begin the period.

Heading into the locker room after the second period, down 6-4, head coach Dan Pszenyczny let his team know that it was making simple mistakes and had to make some changes.

“We left off the gas pedal a little bit,” he said. “I let them know. We got away from our game and started puck-watching. I told them to just calm down and play our game, and they started slowly listening and getting back into it.”

Forward Ryan Dunne was more specific in his assessment.

“The only problem we had was on the penalty kill. We can’t beat teams four players to five.”

UNF had many opportunities during the first 15 minutes of the final period to climb back into it with a couple of power plays, including a three on five, but couldn’t convert.

Finally, at the 5-minute mark, captain Chad LaBerge was able to score a power play goal off of a rebound. Moments later, Chris Mulligan caused one of Life’s defenders to lose his edge in their defensive zone, picked up the puck and put it in the net to tie the game.

With just 1:18 left in the game, Kyle Coughlin took advantage of a perfect pass from LaBerge and sniped in the game-winning goal.

“I’m extremely proud of the way they came out. We battled hard, and we didn’t give up an inch,” Pszenyczny said.

King was impressed with the way the team hustled, even down by three goals.

“That’s the first time our team has shown heart. It shows that we’re a contender. It shows that we’re somebody who is going to make it,” King said.

The five-game winning streak would come to an end one day later, on military appreciation night, with an 8-5 loss.

UNF’s coaching staff had some trouble with the referees in both contests. Questionable calls and a total of six disallowed goals over the two games hurt the Ospreys.

“The referees were slow,” King said. “They weren’t used to this type of pace of hockey, I think.”

Another thing that hurt UNF this weekend was Wiesner’s lack of experience in goal. Even with some key saves in the first game, King knew there is work to be done.

“We‘re gonna stick with him and work on his maturity over the next two weeks.”

The team is 5-1 and felt like they’re finally getting it together.

“Now that we’ve been practicing and playing together and have gotten a couple of wins under our belt.” Dunne said. “Everybody knows that everybody has each others backs.”

UNF will be looking to work on a few things with a bye week in the schedule before it heads up to Life’s home rink.

Schedule:

Oct.14 at Life

Oct.15 at Life

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