By Ben King
As September comes to a close in Oxford, the whole town is buzzing about the Rebel football team. While football is getting all the attention it deserves, the Ole Miss Hockey Club is coming off a championship winning season and started a new season on September 24.
The Rebels will defend their title as kings of the SEC, with an opening home match in Olive Branch against Georgia. Along with beginning their title defense, the Rebels will be playing their first match since the 2019 season thanks to a gap year due to COVID-19.
Team President John Witwer and Team Captain Kurt Lindhorst are not worried though and are anticipating a successful season for the club.
Witwer went into detail about the start of the season and coming off the COVID gap year.
“We had a lot of momentum after we won the SEC in 2019,” Witwer said. “It was very frustrating to have to put everything on hold last year. We’re very excited to be back this year though, and the good news is that every other club is in the same boat as us. Every club had to take a year off and each club lost guys just like we did, so I’m not too worried about how we’ll fare.”
Lindhorst also gave his thoughts on having to begin a title defense after having to take a year off.
“It’s not easy,” Lindhorst said. “Taking a year off hockey you build up a lot of rust you have to knock off by getting back in shape and such. It’s something that every team has to deal with however, as the vast majority of teams didn’t have a season last year as well. I believe our team is up to the challenge though.”
Witwer and Lindhorst discussed how recruitment was affected after winning the SEC last season.
“Winning that SEC tournament definitely put us on the map,” Witwer said. “It got a lot of people thinking about us and we managed to bring in a lot of talent with these last two classes.” “Winning the SEC Championship really helped our recruiting,” Lindhorst said. “It got a lot of kids interested in the program and showed them that we have a winning team down here, and the school just sells itself.”
Witwer gave a rundown of the strongest position on the team heading into the 2021 season.
“Our goaltending is phenomenal,” Witwer said. “We have two guys returning with a lot of experience. Ryan Troy who was the SEC tournament MVP last year, and Cameron Parent who had the best save percentage in the whole SEC his freshman year.”
Lindhorst is in his first year of graduate school in the Accounting program at Ole Miss. He’s been with the club for a bit and has been able to watch the club grow into the championship caliber team it is today.
“The team is absolutely better than when I came in my freshman year,” said Lindhorst. “Organizationally and in terms of productivity on the ice. In between my freshman and sophomore year we had a new coaching staff come in and they elevated the program.”
Both Witwer and Lindhorst are eager for the home season opener against Georgia and emphasized that this is a big game for the Rebels.
“We have had a good rivalry with UGA as long as I have been here,” Lindhorst said. “It is definitely something that I am personally looking forward to. They are a great, winning program and to have a team like that coming into our place to start the season will be a good test.”
“UGA has been a thorn in our side ever since hockey was established here and we haven’t beaten them yet in a head-to-head matchup. They have an outstanding program, and they are well coached,” Witwer said. “They have won the SEC more than any other team in the conference. We really want to get that monkey off our back, and it would be another huge step forward for this program if we beat them in the season opener.”
Ole Miss lost two straight games to the Georgia Bulldogs over the weekend.