This season has been a bumpy one for USC hockey. Currently, they are 6-11-0 in American Collegiate Hockey Association play (2-3 in Southeastern College Hockey Conference), but they have had to cancel seven games due to natural events such as flooding and snow.
They lost a handful of key players to injury, and another two unexpectedly left the team. Despite all the difficulties, Head Coach Allan Sirois, who has 14 years of professional hockey experience, says his team has been playing relatively well.
“The season [has progressed] pretty well considering some of the challenges that we faced,” he said. “We are on a bad streak right now … but we are not playing bad, just losing all the games by a goal or two. We had a really hard schedule, almost all the teams that we play are ranked.”
In 2014, it was a loss to Miami in the regional finals. In 2015, it was another loss to the Hurricanes in the regional tournament. But this year, in order to even get into the regional tournament, they must win their last two home games Friday and Saturday against UNC-Wilmington.
South Carolina plays in the Southeastern College Hockey Conference, which has 10 out of the 14 typical SEC teams. The Southeastern College Hockey Conference belongs to the American Collegiate Hockey Association in the Division South Region. From each of the American Collegiate Hockey Association regions, the top two teams will continue on to play in the national tournament. Then, teams ranked three through 10 will have to claw their way past one another in a two-game mini-tournament. The two teams standing at the end of the mini-tournament will also go to the national stage.
Right now, USC Hockey is sitting at 11th place. To move into 10th place and a spot in the regional tournament, they need to pull out victories on Friday and Saturday. The Gamecocks were scheduled to play Wilmington twice back in October, but those games had to be canceled due to the 1000-year storm that affected much of the Carolinas.
The team has been on a bit of losing streak coming into this weekend. They have lost to Florida 7-6, South Florida 4-3 in overtime, Florida Gulf Coast 6-0 and Central Florida 3-0, and, most recently, they dropped two to Kennesaw State. However, senior and team captain Eric Patterson is looking forward to the upcoming games with a silver lining.
“No matter who you are you always want to do better than you’re doing, same goes for our season this year,” he said. “There are positives and negatives you can take away from each week, but now we’re just focusing on our next games and trying to learn from our mistakes.”
In order for South Carolina to pull out the wins this weekend, they need to play solid, fundamental hockey.
“The keys to win this weekend will be to play very well into our own zone, shoot the puck every chance you get, play simple, reduce the turnovers and be very [disciplined],” Sirois said.
Patterson echoed his coach’s call for tighter team play.
“The keys for UNCW are going to be to not beat ourselves and decrease the amount of penalties we usually get,” he said. “Other than that I think we’re a tough gritty team and so are they so it should be a good hockey game.”
The games against Wilmington are at 9 p.m. Friday and 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Plex Indoor Sports in Irmo. Entrance fees are $7 for adults and $4 for students. SGTV will have a livestream of the game.