Intensity was at its maximum when USC’s hockey team (10-7-1) welcomed its rival Clemson back to the Ice Plex. The Gamecocks hit on all cylinders and topped Clemson 4-1.
“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” junior forward Adam Hepp said. “I wouldn’t say it was our best game, but we just had to get out of there with a win and with a bigger opponent coming tomorrow, a win’s a win.”
The Gamecocks came out firing, as shown by junior defenseman Geordie Lukas ’ goal 19 seconds into the game. After a few Gamecock penalties, junior forward Eric Patterson gave USC another goal with just under three minutes left in the first period. The Gamecocks were able to stifle Clemson in the opening frame to lead 2-0.
In the second period, the Gamecocks took advantage of another early goal. Junior forward Taylor Wolf scored two minutes in, to give the Gamecocks a 3-0 edge. Both teams treated the game like it was their last, but Clemson couldn’t convert any chances. A goal by Hepp gave USC a commanding 4-0 lead at the end of the second.
Clemson tried to overcome the deficit, but nothing was really working. The Gamecocks held them off all period until the Tigers ’ Alec Swindeman scored with just two minutes left to play.
Coming off two big wins versus Central Florida last weekend, USC extended its winning streak to seven. The Gamecocks are hoping to keep their momentum going against Alabama Saturday night.
“They played hard tonight,” head coach Mike Lee said. “They did what they needed to do, got the goals they needed, and it’s always nice to extend a winning streak. They deserve it.”
Sophomore goalkeeper John Musciano was there to help his teammates along the way. He had 17 saves and only allowed one goal, giving the Gamecocks some comfort to be aggressive in the offensive zone.
“Hopefully it made them feel a bit more secure,” Musciano said. “And hopefully they felt more relaxed and had slightly more confidence to score goals and make more plays.”
And since it was a USC-Clemson rivalry game, there was bound to be extra excitement in the atmosphere. Neither team would lie down without a fight, which showed in the combined 15 penalties. Each side ’ s fans came out ready to support and the Gamecock players were thankful for the crowd.
“I believe we have the best fans in the league,” Lukas said. “And they give us that boost of momentum we need to get over the hump in close games.”
After a rough beginning to the season, the Gamecocks knew they had some challenges to face. They refocused and started playing better as a team, according to Lee. The head coach added that he has seen constant improvements in his players each game and is proud of how far they’ve come.
“This team is a team of hard workers.” Lee said. “We win games because we stay out of the box and work 110 percent every day.”