Auburn’s kept it close for two periods and Hayden Harris put up major numbers as the Tigers fell at home to the Ice Dawgs by score of 8-4 on Friday night. Auburn entered the game boasting a 3-6 record, while the visitors from Athens sat at 7-1 when the puck dropped.
Auburn Shots on Goal: 19
Georgia Shots on Goal: 55
Auburn Penalty Kill: 5-6
Georgia Penalty Kill: 5-6
The first period on the ice got off to a hot start as the Dawgs’ offense dominated the rink coming off of the initial faceoff. Controlling the puck with expert passing fundamentals, the Georgia forecheck quickly broke into the offensive zone and shot a laser past Auburn goaltender Hayden Harris on an odd-man rush. Caleb Santa Maria snapped the puck into the net, assisted by teammate and brother Christopher Santa Maria, just 67 seconds into the game.
Once the opening jitters were resolved, Auburn got down to business on defense and impressively fought off the relentless passing attack of the red sweaters. Harris had two huge saves off of big shots from Georgia forward Carter Penzien as well as a goal-saving snatch on a glove-side blast from the left circle. Frustrated by lack of production on both sides of the puck, the first extra-curricular action of the tilt erupted as Christopher Santa Maria and Andrew Hagerty exchanged blows and were both sent to the penalty box.
Auburn hit their stride in the second half of the first period when good offensive rhythm set the Tigers up for a blue line blast from freshman Brandon Weis and assisted by defenseman Clinton Fleming as both teams returned to full strength. The Tigers didn’t let this momentum die, as they were able to capitalize on a rattled Dawg defense to light the lamp once again on a shot from the crease by Hagerty with assistance from captain Chandler Brown.
The Tigers locked it down for the final seven minutes of the period, putting the kibosh on the game-high 21 shots that Georgia threw Hayden Harris’s way. Harris stood on his head as the period drew to a close, with numerous cover-ups and chest saves that allowed the Tigers to control the momentum in the defensive zone.
However, Georgia set the tone for the rough and physical game that was in store with a relentless offensive forecheck, culminating in a net-crashing scramble that sent Harris, and Dawg skaters Tourner Moseley and Jay Stephens reeling and knocking the pipes off the ice. In the final minutes of the first, Jack Driggs of Auburn was sent crashing into the boards and later Caleb Santa Maria was called for a slash to close out the first act of this dramatic showing from both teams. 2-1 Tigers.
While the first period was played mostly above belt, it seemed that tensions rose and got the better of these two rivals as big hits and trips to the box became commonplace. Once again Georgia wasted no time in making a move to the net, and scored on their first shot of the period for the second time. Chris Santa Maria charged unassisted to push one past Harris a mere 70 seconds into the period to bring the game even once again at 2 goals apiece.
The Dawgs followed this offensive showing up with a stretch of scrappy play as junior forward Caleb Santa Maria found himself in the sin bin following an interference call. The Dawgs successfully killed this two-minute minor, but Santa Maria the younger was escorted back to the penalty box just a minute after returning to the ice. This would prove costly for the Dawgs, as Auburn took advantage of their second power play of the period.
Sophomore netminder Emily Barber had her work cut out for her as Auburn took the Georgia defense along for the ride as eight skaters crowded the visiting goalie on the aggressive Tiger power play. Eventually, the puck bounced the right way for Auburn and Chandler Brown was able to drop the puck in the basket to give the Tigers a well-deserved lead with 13 to go in the second.
Penalties and hits became the name of the game as the period progressed with Auburn’s James Barrall and Georgia’s Chris Keresztes were both sent crashing into the boards on two separate occasions. Two tripping calls within a minute of one another on Adam Kalson and Loic Harousseau put Georgia on a dangerous 5-on-3, but Auburn was able to successfully kill the man advantage.
Back to full strength, Georgia didn’t let Auburn’s lead last for long as freshman forward Jay Stephens knocked one off the post and into the net to knot things up at three goals a side. Seeking to add to their momentum, Georgia began to press hard on the bending Auburn defense. Within the last eight minutes of the period, Harris’s net was crashed twice, but he was able to cover both would-be scoring plays. On the bright side for Auburn, the Tigers were 4-4 on penalty kills in the period, but still gave up two full-strength goals. We head to the third, Tigers and Dawgs deadlocked at 3.
In what seemed like routine at this point, Georgia draws first blood in the period. While not on the Dawgs’ first shot, a (very) quick third shot from Caleb Santa Maria lit the lamp a just 72 seconds into the third. The Dawgs were persistent to open the frame, forcing Harris to cover the puck on two separate occasions, and colliding with the Auburn goalie before Jay Stephens netted the second Ice Dawg goal of the period.
Auburn showed some resilience, immediately battling their way back into things. Auburn’s Brandon Weis scored on a momentum-shifting wrist shot to cut the Tiger deficit in half. Tensions between these rival schools really came to a head as Andrew Hagerty and Chris Keresztes all but dropped their gloves after Hagerty sent the Georgia defenseman over the boards into the visitors’ bench. Penalties were dished out on both sides as both teams rushed to the aide of their brawling comrades.
A tripping call on Auburn’s Blake Robinson proved to be the beginning of the end for the trailing Tigers whose time was running out. The defenseman’s trip to the box set up a pivotal 4-on-3 skirmish that led to another Chris Santa Maria goal, and another two-goal lead for the Ice Dawgs. With ten minutes left in the game for the Tigers, the time for action came as two Georgia penalties gave the Tigers their own 5-on-3 skate to play with.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, poor passing game in the offensive zone and clutch puck clearing by Dawgs led to only two shots on goal being mustered for the entire man advantage, and the Tigers were unable to make any strides towards getting back in the game. Auburn managed one more great offensive push that forced Barber to defend her crease and cover the puck.
Georgia broke the game wide open with five minutes to go when junior forward Carter Penzien drove to the net unassisted and knocked the bottle off of Harris’s net as Auburn’s netminder was fourth time in the period. A late odd-man rush gave the Tigers a glimmer of hope, but all was lost as Chris Santa Maria turned on the jets and scored unassisted as a result of poor effort and lack of awareness from the rattled Auburn defense. As the he final horn sounds, the Ice Dawgs are on top as they double-up on the home team Tigers in front of a packed Columbus Ice Rink.
Final: Georgia-8 Auburn-4
There were stand-out performances on both teams in this conference clash, Auburns’ Hayden Harris made 47 stops, including several chest and glove saves, and the Santa Maria brothers on Georgia’s squad accounted for five of the Dawgs’ eight goals.
Auburn falls to 3-8 on the season and the Ice Dawgs improve to 8-1. The Tigers are back on the ice to take on the Clemson Tigers at the Columbus Ice Rink next to the Columbus Civic Center next Friday (11/9) at 1:00 p.m. CT.