The Daily Gamecock

Ice 'Cocks upend shorthanded College of Charleston

Offense shines as 11 Gamecocks reach scoresheet; rematch at UNC Charlotte set for Friday

After a disappointing start to the new year, South Carolina got its first victory since Dec. 2 Thursday night in a 9-3 decision over College of Charleston.

Six first-period goals helped the Gamecocks break a two-game losing streak with their highest-scoring game since hanging 10 on Tennessee three months ago. But even more so than the quick start, fatigue was a clear factor in the game as the Cougars only brought 11 players to Irmo. American Collegiate Hockey Association teams are permitted to dress 20 players for a game.

Nick Pizzo opened the scoring with an unassisted marker just under four minutes in and the floodgates opened for South Carolina. Three pucks made it past Charleston goaltender Brett Epstein in the 5:13 following Pizzo's goal and a pair of late-period scores from Dave Cochran and Jake Tengi sent the Gamecocks to the dressing room up 6-0 after 20 minutes.

The two teams traded goals the rest of the way as 11 South Carolina skaters recorded points. In the second period Geoff Kostrzebski tallied his eighth goal of the season to equal team leaders Tengi, Mike Borst and Sean Davis. Rookie forward Ben Smith added two goals of his own for his first points since scoring twice at Tennessee on Oct. 13 and defensemen Evan Hoey and Brian Sohr notched two assists each.

Special teams also made the difference as South Carolina's penalty kill kept the Charleston power play off the scoreboard on seven straight tries. On the Cougars' eighth power play of the game, Charleston's Toby DiPaolo beat Nick Jasinski for the game's final goal with under two minutes remaining.

As the only goaltender Charleston dressed Thursday night, Epstein went the distance with 34 saves in the loss. At the other end, Jasinski turned aside 25 of 28 Charleston shots for his first career win as a Gamecock.

Post-game, South Carolina head coach Allan Sirois commended his players for their improved communication and puck movement Thursday night.

"We played with a lot of pace," Sirois said. "Guys talked to each other, they were great out there to play together and I think that's the part that we haven't done in a while. So we needed this, confidence-wise."

The Gamecocks are on the road Friday night to meet UNC Charlotte. The last time they met, South Carolina fell to the 49ers on home ice in their opening game of the season on Sept. 15. Goaltender Jared Ward struggled in his first career start, allowing six goals on 22 shots before being replaced by Bobby Lombardi in the third period. 

South Carolina fared little better on offense, being held to one goal through two periods before scoring four times in the closing seven minutes to salvage a 7-5 loss. 

Ward will start for South Carolina against UNC Charlotte on Friday night.

Regarding their last meeting with the 49ers, team captain Tengi said a quick, even start will be crucial to the Gamecocks' success Friday night.

"This year we've sucked in first periods and we lose pretty much those games," Tengi said. "That's the main thing for tomorrow, the first period."


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