The Florida Tech Panthers got the biggest win in program history on Wednesday, beating the fifth-ranked Tampa Spartans 7-6 in a Sunshine State Conference battle at the Olin Sports Complex on the Campus of Florida Tech. Tampa came into this game averaging 13.6 goals a game.
“It was huge,” Panthers coach Ryan McAleavey, after the game. “Tampa sets the standard in our conference and they are one of the best teams in the country. They didn’t have a conference loss, until today.”
“We prepared for a shootout,” he continued. “We thought it was going to be a 13, 14, or 15 goal game, but when it’s a conference game you’re always prepared and no disrespect to any other teams, but you always get up for it a little bit more”
Tampa (8-2, 0-1 SSC) had never lost to Florida Tech in eight previous meetings and as McAleavey eluded to, the Spartans came in with an all-time record of 20-0 in the Sunshine State Conference. As the saying goes, that’s why they play the game.
Florida Tech (3-4, 1-0 SSC) showed early on that they were ready to play. It was a defensive battle early on, although Florida Tech did get three shots on Tampa goalie B.J. Borowski, with six minutes gone by in the first quarter. Panthers netminder Daniel Flock made two saves in that time.
Mason Ostrowski finally broke the ice with 6:50 to go in the quarter, scoring on a feed from Tyler Covey, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead. Shane Hanlon got a shot off with 4:09 to go, but he got the post and the Panthers would hold that lead as the first period clock expired and the good defense continued for the early portion of the second quarter.
Tajee Mobley, who scored a career-high six goals last Wednesday against Mars Hill, looked to have his first of this game when he snatched a rebound out of mid-air and ripped it past Borowski with 11:16 left in the half. Unfortunately, The official quickly waved it off, signaling interference on Mobley.
Moments after Flock made a nice save on a shot by Kansai Garey, Luke Robideaux stayed with the play and got the Spartans on the board, with 6:34 to go in the half. The tie didn’t last long, as Mobley struck just 32 seconds later, to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead. The assist went to Reid Chaconas.
Flock would make another save with 4:32 to go in the half and then Tampa would have a goal taken off the board with about a minute and a half to go. Tampa got a delayed penalty as the half was winding down, as Addison Abramson was called for slashing. With that, the Panthers took a one-goal lead to the locker room.
“We had a game plan and we stuck to it,” McAleavey said. “I didn’t make may changes a halftime because what we were doing was working. I just told them to not look back at what we had done, stay focused and keep doing what we were doing.”
Florida Tech took 23 shots in the first half, to 10 for Tampa. Borowski had seven saves, while Flock stopped six. The Panthers also held a 17-11 advantage in ground balls and were 3-for-5 on faceoffs.
Abramson’s penalty gave Tampa the man-up to start the third, but they were hurt by an illegal screen call early in the advantage and weren’t able to get a good look at the cage from there.
Florida Tech would get a man-up opportunity of their own moments later, with Tampa being called for unnecessary roughness. Logan Sweeney put the Panthers up 3-1 with 12:42 left in the third. The assist went to Ostrowski.
Matt Vetter answered for Tampa with 11:28 to go, but as they did earlier, Florida Tech had a quick answer, with Luke Palmisano scoring his first goal of the season, to give the Panthers a 4-2 edge. Vetter tried to get it by Flock again 1:55 later, but this time Flock said no, coming up with a nice save.
Covey, affectionately known as the “pickup truck”, made his presence felt again with his second goal of the season with 7:54 to go, staking the Panthers to their biggest lead of the day, 5-2.
Tampa got right back into the game when Luke Posner and Chris Cox scored 1:38 apart, closing the gap to 5-4.
Justin Williams helped the Panthers regain their two-goal led when he scored with 1:36 to go, only to see Tampa’s leading scorer and one of the most dynamic scorers in the country, Andrew Kew, put one behind Flock with 6.3 seconds left in the quarter. After scoring just three goals in the first half, these two teams combined for eight in the third quarter alone and the Panthers led 6-5.
Florida Tech came out firing to start the fourth, with Borowski making a save on Chaconas 2:26 into the stanza and Williams and Sweeney each hitting the post minutes apart.
“We hit so many pipes today,” McAleavey said. “We really had good looks, but just got some tough shots. We could’ve definitely had a bigger lead.”
Flock, who had 17 saves continued to keep the Spartans off the scoreboard as the fourth quarter got underway. He made a nice save on Vetter with 9:32 to go and he was helped by the post on a shot by Max Lambert with 7:47 to go.
Shortly after an offsides penalty on Ostrowski expired, Jake Mosher McGraw whistled one in on Flock that he corralled with 3:13 left.
Palmisano got a much-needed insurance goal with 1:38 left, but Tampa did get a late chance after a pass by Flock was missed and the ball went out of bounds. The Spartans took advantage, as Garey scored with 32 seconds left, cutting the Panthers lead to 7-6.
Kew made a last-gasp effort with 16 seconds left, but as he had been throughout the day, Flock was there to shut the door.
“Flock was awesome for us,” said McAleavey. “He stepped up and made some great saves and just had a great game.”
For more info: Tampa @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers ended the day with 40 shots, to Tampa’s 32. Tampa committed 15 turnovers to Florida Tech’s 13 and the teams were even in ground balls, at 31. Florida Tech was 1-for-4 on the man-up, while the Spartans went 0-for-4.
Next up for FIT is a matchup with #11 Mount Olive on Saturday at the Olin Complex. Opening faceoff is set for noon.