Blazers Break Out Brooms, Sweep Ice Vols in Season Series

By: Reed Gossard

The UAB Blazers return home from Knoxville, Tennessee with their heads held high.

This past weekend, the Blazers dueled twice over with the Tennessee Ice Vols and accomplished a proud milestone for the fledgling program, finishing off Tennessee in both contests and cementing a season sweep of the “the oldest and most established hockey team in the Southern United States.”- https://twitter.com/icevolshockey?lang=en

In a tight first stanza, played out at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum late Friday night, an early goal by the Volunteers was met by an equalizer from Cameron Fulgenzi, also early in the first period.

After a Zach Rood goal, Fulgenzi again scored to make it 3-1 Blazers in the top half of the second period. Tennessee then scored two quick goals  to make it 3-3 all, before Jacob Hornsby and Kyle Feeney scored to make it 5-3 heading into the final act.

A tightly contested third period saw two more Ice Vol goals to make it 5-5 with under five minutes to go, until Charlie Corbett scored the game winner off of a nice feed from Hornsby at the three minute mark. Sam Schilling, in goal for the Blazers, made a last second pad save to stave off overtime and give UAB a 6-5 win, one game away from sweeping.

Hornsby tallied five assists and a goal, while Fulgenzi (2), Rood, Feeney, and Corbett netted goals of their own for the Blazers.

Saturday night’s contest was decided much quicker than Friday’s game.

Cameron Dickinson scored the lone goal of the first period in a furious three-on-one forecheck. Dale Gaskins and James Martin came crashing into the Tennessee defensive zone, creating room for Dickinson to fire off a quick wrist shot that bounced off of the orange shoulder pad of the opposing goalie. Dickinson swiftly rebounded the puck and without a moment to spare netted his sole goal of the game.

The second period belonged to Kyle Feeney.

Relatively limited in his offensive output for much of the first portion of the season, Feeney added four second period goals to bring his weekend scoring total to five as he helped bury the Volunteers on their home ice. Three of his goals came betweeen the thirteenth and fifteenth minutes of the second act, a lightning fast barrage that stifled any chances of the men in orange gaining any momentum.

Feeney, on where the scoring outburst came from:

“I know if I put myself in the best position to score a goal I have done my job on the ice. They teach this stuff all the way from Mini-Mites to the Show; effort is everything. I was just in the right place at the right time and my teammates executed our offense beautifully, giving me the ability to score like I did.”

Dillon Gasparek netted his first two goals of the season in the third period. The center dominated on the ice, leveraging his six-foot-three-inch frame to deliver brutal, possession ending hits while also adding some offensive flare to the mix. He lead an impressive third line that scored three of the eight Blazer goals.

Gasparek, on what fueled the offensive output:

“The third line really wanted to bounce back after a tough night on Friday. We were a little sloppy, and we wanted to go into the game on Saturday with a different mindset, putting our focus back on the basics. I think the three goals speak for themselves.”

Schilling, playing as a winger in Saturday night’s game, scored his first goal of the season in the third period as well, off of a beautiful assist placed right in front of the net by Dickinson.

Tennessee scored two in the final frame to make the end score an 8-3 UAB win. Aaron Roe played in goal, facing forty-one shots and saving thirty-eight of them for a 0.93 save percentage, turning in another solid night of net-minding to sweep the hometown Ice Vols.

Dickinson, Gaskins, Martin, and Schilling all earned assists during the game.

The Blazers (6-2) will face the University of Alabama, Huntsville next, in Huntsville on October 26th and the 27th. Follow along on the team’s website http://uabhockeyclub.com for all of the latest news and coverage of your UAB Men’s Ice Hockey team.

 

Blazers Battle Ice Dawgs, Come Up Short

By: Reed Gossard

Occasionally, the ice rink can sound like a chicken coop as the refs fill the air with chirps from their whistles.

Too many whistles means to many penalty minutes and too much time in the penalty box, a tough position to be in when trying to win a hockey game.

Such was the case Friday night for the UAB Blazers, as extended penalty minutes lead to four Ice Dawg goals and a loss in a game where the score did not reflect the spirit of competition on the ice.

After three straight goals from Georgia, Jakob Hornsby netted one for the Blazers, squeezing the puck ino the corner of the goal to make it 3-1.

Taking some momentum from the Hornsby goal into the intermission, the Blazers played the Ice Dawgs with ferocious effort, but extended minutes  in the penalty box began to wear down any chance at a comeback.

The Blazers (4-2) will take on the Tennessee Volunteers next weekend in a rematch of a Blazer sweep on opening weekend. UAB will be home next on November 30th, when they face the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

UAB Roundtable: Hockey Basics, from the Blazers

By: Reed Gossard

Hockey is a fast sport.

The average NHL player skates over 20 mph. on the thin sheet of ice that serves as a rink. Players like to grow their hair out long, dubbing it “flow” due to to the fact that it will fly, like a stallion’s mane, as they speed past blue and red lines.

Hockey is a violent sport.

Collisions can be heard in the stands as players hurdle like comets towards each other. Even the goalies endure contact, as they forfeit personal well-being to stop a six ounce disk of solid rubber from hitting the back of the net off of a screaming slap-shot.

Hockey is a poetic sport.

The sheer skill required to weave in and out of defending poke-checks and hits can be seen as almost dance-like. After a game, the ice is still scored in several places from where players exhibit fancy footwork on offense and defense.

Hockey, however, can be challenging to understand for the uninitiate. In a game where the most basic motion, skating, is unnatural to the basic actions of daily life, what seems simple can be inherently much more complex than originally thought.

Here to help are the experts, the UAB Blazers. In roundtable fashion, they give their keys to playing the most beautiful sport on ice.

Hockey’s physicality generates an atmosphere of either being the hammer or the nail in game situations. A perfectly timed hit can knock an entire offense off-balance. Dillon Gasparek, on executing a correct hit:

“In a proper body check, your main goal is to separate the player from the puck so your team can gain possession. You should never leave your feet before impact. Lead with your shoulder, and aim for their chest or shoulder, keeping your elbows and hands down (much like a football tackle, without wrapping-up). You never want to hit anyone in the head, or from behind. (Doing) Both of those could cause major injuries.”

There are other means besides just a hit, however, that hockey players employ to inhibit the advancement of the puck while on defense. Dale Gaskins, on performing a routine poke check (when a defenseman uses his stick to try and steal or knock the puck from an offensive player’s possession):

“Executing a good poke check is all about trying to separate the opposing man from the puck without sacrificing your body position. Ideally, the best way to change possession of the puck is to play the man ‘body-to-body and stick-to-stick,’ or simply making contact with the body and stick simultaneously to ensure the puck is knocked loose.”

A poorly executed poke check can leave a single man stranded on defense against a rush of opposing players. Matt Zbell, on facing a two-to-one odd man rush on defense:

“The first thing you do when taking on a two-on-one is to have good gap control. You don’t want to give them enough room to make a play or play it so far up that you let the guy with the puck just go around you.

The second thing is to take the passing lane away from the guy with the puck. This means having an active stick to make it look like there’s not going to be a way for him to get the puck through (like using active hands to take away passing angles in basketball).

The most important thing is communication with your goalie. Hopefully he’ll be screaming at you, telling you what he wants you to do. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’ll be ‘take the pass I’ve got the shooter.’

That’s how I play a two-on-one and most of the time (I have) great success unless the shooter makes a good shot. ”

But not everything in hockey is about stopping a goal. The offense needs to put a few ticks on the scoreboard. Cam Dickinson, on his thought process when attacking on a two-on-one odd man rush, on offense:

“I’m a pass first kind of guy so I look at my teammate and try to hold back, creating a non-linear attack (applying pressure to the defense, like a give-and-go in soccer) to allow him to get a step on the defenseman and make that defender make a choice (between defending the puck or defending my teammate).

Next, I’ll take a look at the goalie and see where he’s sitting in the net. If he’s cheating over (to my teammate) I’ll usually skate a few strides in then rip one by him, but the goalie rarely cheats over.

After, I switch my focus back on my guy and the D. If the defenseman commits to my teammate I have a one-on-zero with the goalie and I’ll just pick a corner (to shoot at). But more times than not the defenseman tries to stay on me while getting into the passing lane.

My favorite thing to do is to try to thread the puck between the D’s skates, between his stick, or over him onto my guys stick. Now all my guy has to do is bat that puck in because the goalie won’t be able to move in time.”

Speaking of, goalies have perhaps the most grueling job on the ice: stopping a small rubber puck from going into a six-by-four feet goal. Once shot upon, there are many times where a goalie must make another stellar save in order to stop a quick rebound shot from going in. Aaron Roe, on saving a rebound shot with the game on the line:

“The key is to keep your eye on the puck for as long as you can. If you can’t see the puck chances are you’re not going to make the save.

Once you’ve made a first save and tracked the rebound, the goal is to get square to the puck. This means that you want your shoulders facing the puck head on. You want to be away from the goal line, challenging the puck, to take away more of the net, and you want to be in your stance with your gloves up and stick on the ice ready to make a save. Simply being in position for a shot gives you a much better chance at stopping a goal.

The last tip for rebounds I have is to never ever give up on a play. I specifically remember giving up a rebound against Auburn and it slid right to one of their forwards. As he shot with a wide open net, I reached out with my blocker (stick) hand in desperation and the player shot it right into my arm. So by just giving one small last effort to make a save we avoided giving up another goal.”

Hockey is beautifully complex; its penchant for ordered chaos and patterned violence make it an incredibly exciting game, albeit one hard to master. The UAB Blazers step onto the ice every game knowing that the best chance they have at winning is if they play with solid fundamentals and maximum effort, a sentiment echoed in all sports, whether they be played on grass, dirt, or ice.

The UAB Blazers will play their next game on October 5th in Athens, GA against the Georgia Bulldogs. Time is to be determined. Check Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for all your latest news and scores.

Blazers Victorious, Outlast Auburn 5-3 in Columbus

By: Reed Gossard

Birmingham, your hometown hockey team is just one win away from winning the season series against their vaunted in-state rival, the Auburn Tigers.

The first act of three for the season between the Blazers and the Tigers was a heavy, hard-fought game, but the boys in green kept their heads through a tough 2nd period and came out on top 5-3 on a gorgeous night for hockey in Columbus, Georgia.

Hornsby opened up the scoring for both teams with a close wrist-shot in the first few minutes of the game, but Auburn scored twice even though UAB controlled the puck for most of the period, and went into the locker room up 2-1 against the Blazers at the end of the first period.

Then, after a grueling second period that featured another solid penalty kill by the Blazers and some impressive saves from goalie Aaron Roe nearly came to an end, Phil Zbell netted the equalizer with five seconds to go before the buzzer.

Auburn scored nearly immediately to start the third, but then Hornsby scored his second goal to tie and Phil netted his second to go up 4-3 with eleven minutes left in the period. Cam Dickinson then scored a wacky, blooper real full ice goal on an Auburn empty net as the buzzer sounded to make it 5-3.

Hornsby, on the win:  “It was a great team win. We really came together and played our first full 60 minute game of the hockey we know we can play. (I’m) Really happy with this win, especially with the rivalry factor of the game.”

The UAB Blazers will play next on October 5th, against the University of Georgia.

Can’t make it to the game? Follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or here at http://uabhockeyclub.com.

 

Weekend Recap: Blazers Go 1-1 in ATL, Improve to 3-1 on Season

By: Reed Gossard

Sometimes, when all you want is a nice two scoop waffle cone, life gives you a banana split.

The UAB Blazers lost Friday night 5-2 to a deep Georgia Tech team, and then rebounded  Saturday evening to dominate Lynn University 6-2 to draw even on the weekend as they head home to face Auburn next week.

After the loss to Georgia Tech, the Blazers kept their heads in a very physical game with Lynn University. Dickinson, Zbell, Hornsby, Fulgenzi, Cordeau, and Schilling all scored a goal each, while Gasparek, Gaskins, Phil and Matt Zbell all tallied assists.

There were seventy-four combined penalty minutes played for both teams, a staggering amount. In games where players are spending extended minutes in the penalty box, a solid penalty kill is crucial to winning the game.

Yves Cordeau, on how to execute when the other team is a man up on the ice: “Defending a penalty kill is all about discipline. You have to keep your head on a swivel and your feet moving constantly in order to always be in the right position. It’s emotional, too. Getting in the way of a slapshot is nerve-racking but the feeling of icing the puck after a good block gives a sense of relief right up until they start charging at you again.”

Aaron Roe was stout in the net as well, highlighted by an athletic kick save. Asked about it, his response was, “The guy was coming down my left wing and he was trying to do this move that they’d been doing all game, where they pull the puck across the crease and try to tuck it in back door. I read it as he was coming down and tried to poke check it but I missed. I knew I had to get over as quick as I could so I tried to kick my right leg out as fast as I could to save it. And then my defense cleared it out. Had my defense not been in position, that would have been a goal.”

UAB plays Auburn this weekend in what should be a hard-hitting, barn-stormer of a game this Friday night in Columbus, Georgia.

Zbell, Dickinson and Roe Terrorize Tennessee as Blazers Blank Ice Vols 10-0

By:  Reed Gossard

A night after Jakob Hornsby claimed UAB’s first hat trick of the season, two other Blazers decided to get in on the fun in rollicking fashion.

Cam Dickinson and Phil Zbell proved to be too much for Tennessee as the Blazers took the weekend series with a dominant 10-0 win. Dickinson scored five goals, Zbell added four and both tallied two assists, respectively.

Their chemistry was evident from the first puck drop , and both players acknowledged that the team as a whole was quickly melding into a well-oiled machine.

Dickinson, on how the team played: “The three lines we are running are really working well together and you could see the first line step up the night before (when UAB won 8-3), when the second (line) was getting chances and couldn’t put the puck in the back of the net, and the narrative was the opposite tonight. The lines are really clicking and teams should watch out for all three of them as they prepare for us.”

On the other end of the ice, goalie Aaron Roe was a brick wall as he threw up a doughnut on the scoreboard, holding the Volunteers scoreless until two minutes left in the third, when he was pulled to give the back up some valuable ice time.

After a pedestrian first period, with the Blazers up 1-0 on the Volunteers, the team kicked it into high gear and tallied six goals in a statement second act, propelled by Dickinson and Zbell scoring two goals within a minute to make it 3-0.

Feeding off of a stellar three man penalty kill, the floodgates opened and the buzzer sounded to end the period with UAB up 7-0.

Adil Patel scored one goal on a routine deflection play in the front of the net midway through the third. Matt Zbell, Dillon Gasparek and Jakob Hornsby chipped in assists in the 10-0 win.

Phil Zbell on the sweep and the atmosphere surrounding the team as they look forward to next weekend: “The chemistry just clicked. There was a positive energy on the bench for both games and the boys really became a team this weekend.”

The Blazers will travel into Georgia next weekend to face Georgia Tech and Lynn University. Game recaps will be posted on the team’s website, http://uabhockeyclub.com, and on the team’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Full Speed Ahead as Blazers Smoke Vols in Season Opener

By: Reed Gossard

The Blazers put on quite the show for the home crowd under the bright lights of Pelham Civic Center, as they handily defeated the Volunteers of Tennessee 8-3 on a crisp, clear Birmingham Friday night, exorcising their demons from two overtime losses last year at the hands of UT and giving fans just a taste of what is to come the rest of the season.

Ignited by an ironclad penalty kill, the Blazers scored four goals in the first period and dominated the Volunteers in time of possession (in hockey, called time on attack) with a silky smooth offense and suffocating defense that kept the puck in Tennessee’s offensive zone and away from goalie Aaron Roe most of the game. Hometown hero Jakob Hornsby netted his and the team’s first hat trick of the season; his third goal of the game coming on a beautiful move, bringing the puck from his back hand to his forehand, faking out the goalie and subsequently hammering it home with a quick flash of the wrists.

The second period started with a heavier, more physical atmosphere, but the Blazers kept their heads in the game and continued to play solid, efficient hockey and extended their lead to 7-1.

The third period was simply ceremonial, as Roe was pulled to allow the back up goalie some playing time, and fans and players alike joyously celebrated the 8-3 win when the buzzer sounded.

Dickinson, Corbett, Martin, Cofer, and Fulgenzi all netted one goal apiece while Phil Zbell, Gasparek, Kalson, and Rood all tallied one assist each, respectively.

After the game, Hornsby had some strong praise for his team: “We are way ahead of where we were expected to be for our first game. It blew my mind to see how well we meshed together; we have really good chemistry already. We’re going to have a great season if we continue to play like this.”

The Blazers will try to sweep the Vols tonight at 7:30 at Pelham Civic Center.

State of the Union: Optimism High as Blazers Gear Up for Volunteers

By: Reed Gossard

The ice shone like polished marble, the sounds of sticks and pucks clacked and clanked up and down the boards. and the air dripped with palpable energy as the U.A.B. Blazers turned in a solid two days of hockey this weekend at the team’s annual try out. With the program’s attention turned towards this weekend’s home opener against the Tennessee Volunteers, many in the program are optimistic this could be quite the special season for the Blazers.

Some players and coaches sat down to share their thoughts on the team and the upcoming season:

Aaron Roe, Goalie: “We’re starting to see the work we’ve put (into the program) the last few years pay off.”

Jakob Hornsby, Forward: “We’re already better now than we were at the end of last season.”

Assistant Coach Colin Pritchard: “Looking forward to it, we have a strong group of players. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Adil Patel, Forward: “Best team we’ve had so far.”

Matt Zbell, Defenseman: “(We) definitely (have) a lot of raw talent; we have to work through some kinks but the talent is there.”

Ryan Kalson, Forward: “We have a lot of raw talent.  Great moments are born from great opportunities.”

Head Coach J.T. Smallwood: “We’re evolving, chemistry is developing, we just need to get our legs under us and get out on the ice.”

The U.A.B. Blazers kick off the 2018-2019 season this weekend, September 7-8th against the Tennessee Volunteers. Both games will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Blazers play all home games at the Pelham Civic Center. Check arena for ticket pricing.

UAB Blazers: Fire on Ice 2018-2019 Schedule Preview

By: Reed Gossard

The UAB Blazers will be entering their third season as a program, playing D-III ACHA ice hockey across the Southeast. In the three years since the program started playing a full schedule, the Blazers have turned into one of the more formidable teams in the Southeast, posting a 20-6-2 record last year. The team hopes to do even better this year, with a challenging schedule that should test the mettle of and bring out the best in the Blazers.

Here are a few of the matchups to be excited for in the upcoming 2018-2019 season:

September 7-8: Tennessee Volunteers @ UAB / October 12-13 UAB @ Tennessee

Opponent Record Last Year: 5-10

The Volunteers lay claim to the “oldest and most established hockey program in the southeastern United States” .(per https://utk.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/icevols).

Tennessee hails from the SEC and is quickly turning into one of the Blazers’ more arduous rivals. Last year, UAB travelled to Knoxville and were defeated 3-2 and 5-4 in two games, both of which went into overtime.

With a home and away series against the Volunteers this season, including the Blazers’ first game on home opening weekend and a shot at redemption, the UAB/Tennessee series promises to be fraught with tension and ripe with exhilarating moments on the ice.

September 14:  UAB @ Georgia Tech Yellowjackets

Opponent Record Last Year:  17-5-1-1

The Yellowjackets were one of the ACC’s strongest teams, posting a 17-5-1-1 record after a dismal four win season the previous year, while defeating teams like Florida State, Clemson, and Middle Tennessee State. They made the ACHA D-III National Tournament for the first time in more than ten years, finishing the season on a ten game tear where they went 9-1.

The Blazers lost 6-4 last year in a close contest. Playing in Georgia Tech’s home opener and first game this year, UAB heads to Atlanta with redemption on their minds against a tough, seasoned opponent that went 6-2 at home last season.

September 21: UAB @ Auburn Tigers / February 15-16 Auburn @ UAB

Opponent Record Last Year:  8-9

Auburn has consistently been a thorn in the side of the Blazers, going an even 2-2 in the teams’ four game series last year. The series provided UAB with one of its most memorable moments from last season, when Cam Dickinson was tripped on a breakaway but somehow managed to score and then, with three minutes to go,  Jakob Hornsby netted the game-winner as the Blazers topped the Tigers 3-2.

When the Blazers and Tigers engage on the ice, it is fair to assume that the next sixty minutes of hockey will be fast, physical, and electrifying.

October 5: UAB @ Georgia Bulldogs

Opponent Record Last Year: 17-5-1

The Georgia Bulldogs finished second in the final ACHA D-III  rankings for the South region, dominating their opponents in the SEC, including a 12-0 thrashing of Auburn.

They are one of the toughest opponents the Blazers will face all season, but if the Blazers rise to the occasion like they have done in the past, this game should be incredibly fun to watch.

October 26-27: UAB @ UAH Chargers / February 22-23 UAH @ UAB

Opponent Record Last Year:  N/A

While the Chargers have a storied NCAA program, they recently formed a club team that will play its inaugural game against the Blazers on the last Saturday in October.

Geographically, this could shape up to be quite the rivalry as Birmingham and Huntsville are separated by only 102 miles of I-65 and both are young programs hungry to prove themselves. 

November 30-December 31: Mississippi State Bulldogs @ UAB

Opponent Record Last Year: 4-12-0-1

The Bulldogs were swept last year in six games by the Blazers; however, they always play with grit and are a relentless opponent.

Mississippi State served as the Blazers’ inaugural game on April 2, 2015. The Blazers usually bring a packed house for their oldest rival, and a hard hitting game typically ensues for a fun night of hockey.

The Blazers hope to continue their momentum from last season forward into this season. While they face many tough  and experienced teams, the young program is definitely looking forward to proving itself in a growing hockey landscape in the South.

Author’s note: Several of these team records can be found on ACHA’s website at http://achahockey.org/statistics/1682-ACHA-Mens?type=standings&level=conference&id=1152&sport=1&league_id=1800 ; however, a fair amount of individual investigation was conducted as well, which included research on various opponents’ websites.  The UAB Blazers, while participating in the ACHA, do not as of yet participate in the postseason and therefore do not count for or against an opponent’s overall record on the ACHA site. Any questions or concerns can be directed towards the email found under the “Contact” tab found on this site. 

Dillon Gasparek: Growth, Goals, and the Best Kind of Hockey Flow

By: Reed Gossard

Dillon Gasparek is, by UAB Men’s Ice Hockey standards, a veteran. Three years ago he was a player on the team’s inaugural season, and the center is entering his junior season with high aspirations for the program.

First off, what does a hockey center do exactly?

D: “We take face-offs and play offense.  We’re supposed to be the first guy back to play defense. We’re basically all over the ice.”

Like a mid-fielder in soccer? 

D: (laughs). “Yeah, like that.”

What do you personally do to contribute on both sides of the ice?

D:  “I’m gritty. I love blocking shots and battling for pucks in the corners. And then scoring goals, getting assists, basically anything to put the puck in the back of the net is the best thing I can do. Anything to help the team win.”

 How did you come to join the team?

Dillon: “I had a friend connection. I got a text and then went and tried out and it seemed to work out. I’m pretty sure it did, because I’m still here.” (laughs).

How’s the experience been?

D: “Great! I’ve made a bunch of friends. We’re a close group of guys. I’m really looking forward to next season.”

How have you seen the program grow from its first season until now?

D: “The inaugural season we only played thirteen games and had a losing season, but last season we won twenty games so we’re progressing at a fast rate. We just get better and better the more hockey we play.”

What’s it like playing in Pelham? Do you think it gives the team a substantial home-ice advantage?

D: “Definitely. The new arena we built is awesome. It seats a lot of fans and it’s always fun to have the fans there cheering us on.”

Since you started playing, have any rivalries developed?

D: “Auburn. We split four games with them last year. It’s always fun to play against a tough team. They’re always physical and have a group of talented guys that are fun to play against.”

What is your favorite memory from the first two seasons?

D: “Scoring my first goal in an away game at Auburn in my sophomore year, a game we won.”

What do you consider the team’s goal to be this season?

D: “I don’t think we have a ceiling. Obviously we want to win more than twenty games, but we just want to get better and better on the ice as a team.”

I have to ask, do you have any superstitions or rituals you do to prepare for a game?

D: (laughs). “I always get dressed left to right, bottom to top. Even down to the straps on my helmet. Also, no one touches my sticks after I’ve taped them.”

Quick question before we finish: what’s the best hair style for a hockey player?

D: (laughs). “Just that all-natural messy hockey flow, y’know?”

UAB Men’s Ice Hockey competes at the Division III ACHA level. Games are played at the Pelham Civic Center in Birmingham, Alabama. The full schedule for the 2018-2019 season will be released later this week.