This weekend, the Ole Miss Rebel hockey team will travel to Coral Springs, Fla. for the ACHA national championships.
While most of the student body will be partying on a Florida beach during spring break, the Rebels won’t be too far away when they start group play Monday at 3:30 p.m. EST against California University of Pennsylvania (22-2). Aurora (35-2-1) and Davenport (29-6) are also in the Rebels division for pool play.
Ole Miss (17-8-2) finished the season in fifth place in the SEC tournament. Two weeks later, on Feb 21. the Rebels upset the Florida Gators 7-3. Then the next day they pulled off another upset over rival Alabama Crimson Tide 3-1, in the ACHA south regional qualifier for a bid to the National Championship Tournament.
“I had a feeling before the Florida game, and I talked to the team and I said ‘This is our breakout game, this is our breakout weekend,’” said former player and Head Coach Angelo Rosena.
For the second year in a row, Ole Miss plays the role of Cinderella entering the national tournament.
“To everybody else, on the outside, we are a Cinderella story, but obviously we have a lot of talent here, to come back, again and go to nationals two years in a row,” Rosena said. “They may still take us lightly, but all I can say is that we are going to play our game.”
During the off-season, a group of players left the team for various reasons. Including last season’s third leading scorer, Cody Fullinwider. However the senior made a comeback earlier this season and has 4 points over 7 games.
Sophomore forward Kyle White, was having a breakout season with 20 points over 17 games, until he suffered a season ending ankle injury.
The coach commented on the tough journey the Ole Miss hockey team has skated through. “It was definitely a struggle at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We lost a lot of leadership and veterans. That leadership was absent at the beginning. I think some guys here had to realize that they had some shoes to fill.”
With the change of faces in the locker room, the Rebels had to play with a different attitude if they wanted to make it back to nationals.
“Last year at times, we felt like we were catching lightning in a bottle there, with the success we had. Not trying to put it down — but it was our first time around,” said senior Captain Sean Rogers
Rogers, a Mississippi native, is having a productive season, scoring 4 goals and 18 assists, playing in all 25 games as a defenseman.
“This year we had a more cohesive team, and it wasn’t just wins off of emotion, it was wins off of being the better hockey team there, he said”
Davenport, is the biggest challenge the Rebels will have to face in order to advance from pool play. Last Oct. 24, the Rebels lost to the Panthers 10-2 in a blowout. However, the Rebels were able to beat Davenport 5-2 last season.
“Looking back on it, seeing that we beat them shows that we can compete with them. So even though we lost to them 10-2, I think we know what we have to do compete with them,” said senior forward, Cameron Cook.
Leading goal scorer senior Cameron Cook has 24 goals and 10 assists on the season, including a hat-trick vs Florida at regionals. Cook centers one of the most productive lines in the SEC, featuring freshman Jimmy Rainey and junior Addison Oliver. They combined for 75 points.
“I think if we come out with the mindset that we are going to win,” Cook said. “We come out strong, and we get the first goal, that will (be) huge for us. If we tell ourselves that we can play with them, then we will.”
If any of you Rebel hockey fans want to take a break from the beach, the address to the venue of the ACHA national tournament is 3299 Sportsplex Drive, Coral Springs, Fla. at the Florida Panthers Ice Den. The Rebels will play their three group-play games next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday all at 3:30 PM, EST.
–David Kennedy is a sophomore journalism student in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss. Email him at email@example.com
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