Smitty’s Scrum: Auburn and Georgia Hockey face off in “Border War”

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Auburn Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs: the oldest rivalry in the South. These two universities have faced each other in athletic competitions since the dawn of the Southeastern Conference, vying for supremacy in soccer, basketball, baseball, soccer and softball. The fervor with which fans on either side of this controversial relationship enjoy fighting each other is almost unmatched in the world of sports.

For Auburn Hockey it’s not just another game. Even for a group that prides itself on being physical and a willingness to do the dirty work, the little things, playing the Bulldogs poses a whole new level of challenge. When two of SECHC’s most exciting programs face off on Friday along the Alabama-Peach State border, it will suit the moniker that was once synonymous with the sport of hockey via a TIME cover: a war on ice.

Image via Ken Regan, TIME Magazine

The story of “The Border War”, the rivalry’s new title, is an interesting one, and its origins are indicative of a change in the wind of club hockey within the conference and on a larger scale. For so long, Auburn has been Georgia’s decided little brother on and off the ice, lacking the ability and support structure to win against their enemies donning Red and Black. The Bulldogs have a track record of excellence, with several SECHC championships and a fan base dedicated enough to command a new rink the team can call home. The Tigers, by comparison, have been a wandering, adrift team without a defined organization to back them up.

This is a team from Auburn that spent time on the verge of retreating, a team that allowed football to score against them in hockey games, and one that has never seen a deep immersion in the playoffs. Outside of a few years in recent memory where the Plains saw a multitude of talented players backing their successes (including some wins against UGA), there really wasn’t much reason to hope that the power dynamic would ever be. modified.

When that same “little brother” chose a name for the rivalry, produced a brand new logo, and worked tirelessly to promote it, it marked the long-awaited change loyal Auburn hockey fans wanted. The Tigers are finally taking the initiative and making waves in their neck of the woods with a reimagined approach to how they do virtually everything.

Auburn captain Blake Robison said of the importance of this game: “Everyone has their own opinion on what a win would mean for us, but for the guys in the room it’s very. simple. We want to beat Georgia to send a message to the whole league. Regardless of a rivalry victory and an improvement in our record, we want to prove that we are a dangerous team. ”

Other members of the team’s leadership echoed those sentiments. Assistant captains Ryan Scott and Brandon Weis expressed their respect for Georgia as the promoter of hockey in the South, but quickly made sure to express their steadfast will to defeat them.

Scott called the Bulldogs “a huge test” and “a stepping stone to where we want to go.” Weis, on his admiration for what Georgia has built, said that “everything goes as soon as you get hit in the mouth. You don’t really care. I want to win.”

Georgia enter this game with the highest ranking in the SECHC and placed No.8 nationally, out of 39 teams in total. With a +40 goal differential and well over 200 penalty minutes to go with a 9-2-0 record, beating the Dawgs won’t be easy.

The Tigers sit 14th in the same national ranking and fifth in the conference. Although far from a totally unrecognized challenger, Auburn is still not considered among the elite of club hockey. This game represents a privileged chance for a program seeking to assert itself as a legitimate power to establish the stable tradition and culture that has eluded it until now.

For fans it will be a treat just to watch names like Jackson Katz of Georgia, who leads all SECHC players in points, and Noah Henry and Cam Denk of Auburn, two young cornerstones who provided plenty of flash. in the emerging weeks of the season.

In a game where the outcome is quite uncertain, only one thing is certain: “War” is an apt description for the spectacle that we are bound to have this Friday night in Columbus.


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