By Tito Benach, Sport Club Supervisor
The USF Ice Hockey Club is always motivated whenever it faces off against its cross-city rival, the University of Tampa. However, this season the venue is larger than ever, as the Bulls will battle it out inside the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Amalie Arena as part of the Lightning’s Hockey Day in Tampa Bay.
Senior goalie for the Bulls, Alex Miller, is particularly excited to play in an arena that has played host to many NHL greats.
“I played there a couple of times in high school and it’s a lot of fun to be on the same ice that (Steven) Stamkos played on and other great players,” Miller said. “It’s a great time and we’re really excited for this opportunity.”
Miller is as motivated as ever to play the Spartans, as it always seems to be a tightly contested match-up between the two.
“We play close games every year no matter where we are in the rankings,” he said. “It’s always a fun game and I personally know some guys on the team, so it’s about bragging rights. You want to be the best team in Tampa and we want to show that to everyone.”
The USF Ice Hockey team has yet to lose in 2015, and with a competitive match up against a local team, the Bulls are anxious to showcase their talent. This game against the Spartans will be the last before the team heads off to Orlando for the ACHA DIII South Regionals on Feb. 20.
The hockey team is counting on a lot of support from the USF fan base, not only to cheer them on while they play, but to outmatch the UT fans.
“We just want to show everybody how good of a team we are,” Miller said. “We’re really underrated and no one really knows about us. We’re the number five team in the south right now and we have a strong chance of making nationals.”
While players are doing their best not to get too excited for the opportunity to play a rival in a large venue, Miller does admit there is an obvious increase in tempo in practice.
“We’re just using our usual two practices a week, but it seems like everyone is excited about it and everyone is going harder,” he said. “Once we get out onto that ice we’re going to give it 100 percent.”
The USF Ice Bulls face off against the University of Tampa Spartans Feb. 15 at 11:15 a.m. at Amalie Arena. Tickets can be purchased the day of the game for $10, with all proceeds being donated to Sun Coast Law Enforcement Charities, Inc. and the Lightning Foundation.