Hosting the Southern Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament, the Bulls fell just short of winning it all, losing to the University of Tampa in the championship game.
Playing in their conference playoffs, the Bulls found success on their home ice, defeating both Miami, as well as top-seeded FGCU. Those wins landed USF a spot in the conference championship game Sunday morning, where they fell 6-3 to the University of Tampa Spartans.
The Spartans came out flying to start the game, scoring two quick goals in the first two minutes of play. UT added another just three minutes later, going up 3-0 on USF, who simply were not themselves in the early minutes of play.
One possibility for the Bulls slow start could be the games’ early start time. During the regular season, USF played a majority of its games at night, but Sundays’ championship game started at 9:45 in the morning – the first morning game of the year.
Freshman Kenny Weightman said the early scheduling definitely had an effect on the Bulls, contributing to their slow start to the game.
“It definitely threw us off some,” Weightman said. “We’re so used to getting to wake up late, and getting here during the day, and hanging out before our game. Today wasn’t like that.”
With a conference title on the line however, the Bulls looked to rally back quickly from their 3-0 deficit, scoring their first goal just nine seconds after the Spartans’ third.
UT scored its fourth goal in the first period, but the Bulls again quickly answered back. This time the score came via the freshman duo of Wes Moon and Alex Rhoads.
Despite a valiant effort in the last two periods, the Bulls simply could not recover from the early 3-0 deficit.
Defending their lead, the Spartans excelled on the penalty kill, killing 6-of-8, and notching a shorthanded goal on their way to victory.
Though the tournament is over, the postseason may not be over for the Ice Bulls just yet. After making it to the championship game, team captain Danny Hoeflich said the Bulls have a good chance at being selected for regionals.
“I do think we have a shot to make regionals. We’ve got some big wins these past couple of days” Hoeflich said. “I think that it’s in our favor, but it’s not my decision.”
The decision of who is, and who isn’t selected for regionals is made by a coalition of “unknown rankers,” who select the top ten teams in the region to compete in a tournament for a chance to make nationals.
The Bulls were ranked No. 13 entering the tournament over the weekend, and are likely to move up after defeating the No. 1 team, FGCU. The rankers will release who is in their top ten rankings Friday.