At the brand new Florida Hospital Center Ice, the Wiregrass Ice Hawks fell to the Mitchell Stampede 5-0 in the State Championship Final.
The loss came after the Ice Hawks were defeated by Mitchell 7-4 at Amalie Arena to come in 2nd place at the 2017 Lightning Cup. It was Wiregrass’ runner-up status that qualified them for the State Tournament. The team’s season is likely over, as the loss does not guarantee them a spot at Nationals.
The end may have been a bitter pill to swallow, but it came after an extremely successful year for the team that included a 1st place tie with Jesuit High School in their division.
“We did really well for most of the season,” Senior Left-Wing Steven Blank said. “Except for a stretch where we lost four games in a row.”
Players such as Blank feel that this was the best season they’ve had on the team, with Wiregrass finishing the regular season with a 16-6 record.
The recent attention that the team had received is most likely due to the exceptional season they have had. The players have noticed an increase in attendance at their games and an increased anticipation for the games.
The team is not only made up of Wiregrass Ranch students, but an amalgamation of students from Wiregrass, Zephyrhills, Wesley Chapel, and Tampa Catholic. Senior Joseph Davis, who attends Tampa Catholic, led the team in goals with twenty-eight on the season. With eighteen assists, he comes second only to Wiregrass student Steven Blank; who logged twenty-three over the year.
“A couple years ago we almost got no attendance as a sport. People didn’t even know that we had a hockey team,” Junior Center Adam Zimmerman said.
“This season though, we noticed that we got a lot more fans. Probably because of how well we’ve been doing,” Blank added.
The players expect this year’s success to carry over to next year’s season, as they will not be losing a lot of Senior talent and experience.
“I think that there are a lot of underclassmen who can step up in a big way to help the team next year,” Sophmore Left-Wing Gehrig Oppenheimer said.
The team will continue to train at the new Hockey rink, the largest in the Southeastern United States, over the off-season in preparation of finally bring home the State Title. And perhaps another stab at Mitchell High School.