UA Frozen Tide looks to repeat as SECHC championBy Andrew Clare | 02/20/2013 11:00pm
The Alabama hockey team is set to compete in the SECHC Tournament Feb. 22-24 in Huntsville, Ala., at the Benton H. Wilcoxon Municipal Ice Complex. Alabama will open the SECHC Tournament with a game against the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday.
Last season the Frozen Tide captured its first conference tournament championship by defeating the Florida Gators 7-2 in the championship game.
“It was pretty awesome winning last year,” head coach Mike Quenneville said. “It was great to represent The University of Alabama because everybody wants to beat Alabama no matter what sport it is.”
The Tide finished this season with a 20-11 record and a 6-2 conference record, finishing second in the West only behind Arkansas. Senior captain Brandon Butler said it took the team a little bit to finally find its groove and get into the swing of things.
“First half of the year it took us a little to come together and mesh together,” Butler said. “Then in the second half we turned it around and have been playing to our potential.”
The Frozen Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 7-2 back in December in the two schools’ only meeting of the year. Quenneville said despite having success against Georgia, the team is anticipating a tough game in the tournament.
“We have had success against them in the last couple of games,” Quenneville said. “But now it’s tournament time and anything can happen.”
Two factors that will help the team’s chance of repeating as SECHC champs are strong play by the goaltender and for the team to stick to the game plan.
“We are going to need some good goal tending from our goalie Sean Vinson,” Butler said. “As well as play our systems right. If we play our systems right we will come away with some victories.”
Like the Tide, one of the factors to Georgia’s game is its goaltender. “They have a really good goalie,” Butler said. “If their goalie shows up to play it will be a tough game.”
A big key that has helped prepare the Tide all season for the SEC tournament and the national championship has been its strength of schedule. Alabama has competed with teams all across the country including a game against The University of Alabama-Huntsville the South’s only Division 1 hockey team.
“Our schedule had us playing a lot of the top teams around the country,” Quenneville said. “Playing this type of schedule has really given us an advantage when it comes down to big games because we know what it takes and we have been there and down that.”
The Tide is coming off a strong showing at the regional tournament. Quenneville said the Tide hopes to play the SECHC tournament the way they did at regionals in order to have a good chance to repeat as conference champs.
“We have to play like we did in the regional tournament,” Quenneville said. “Everyone is going to have to be on the same page and if we do that we will win some hockey games.”