UK hockey split a pair of matches this weekend, defeating Alabama 6-5 Friday at the Lexington Ice Center and falling to Dayton 5-4 on the road Saturday.
UK struck first against Alabama less than a minute into the game when captain Sean McLaughlin intercepted an Alabama pass for a high shot that sailed over the shoulder of Frozen Tide goaltender Sean Vinson, creating a 1-0 game.
It wasn’t long after that assistant captain Dylan Rohar slid a pass over to sophomore forward Andrew Baron, who buried the one timer behind Vinson, giving the Cats a 2-0 lead.
“It feels great to be back,” Baron said. Friday’s game was the forward’s first game since a concussion sustained Sept. 29 against Ohio University.
Matt Mayes of Alabama skated in on a one-on-one with goaltender Sal Olivet a few minutes after the Baron goal to earn the first goal of the night for the Tide. It was a 2-1 Cats lead at the end of the first period.
Not long into the second, a scramble in front of the UK net resulted in the Tide pushing the puck over the line behind Olivet.
Alabama wasn’t finished punishing the Cats with one goal. A few minutes later, a bouncing puck would find its way into the net behind Olivet, creating a 3-2 Alabama lead.
“They jumped on us early in that second period before we started working,” McLaughlin said.
Alabama forward Mark Wysock was called for hooking and the Cats capitalized on the power play when McLaughlin found the back of the cage for the second time. Less than five minutes later, on another Cats power play, McLaughlin would have the hat trick.
Less than a minute later, a one timer from sophomore forward Charlie Hales would create a 5-3 Cats lead.
With just under two minutes remaining in the second period, Rohar scored what would be the eventual game winner, sending the puck behind Vinson. Time expired in the second to see a 6-3 UK lead.
Five minutes into the third, Alabama sent a hard slap shot towards the net, resulting in a goal and a broken stick for Olivet as the goalie attempted the stop.
Not long after, UK had too many men on the ice, resulting in a power play for the Tide. Alabama got a hard shot off, which was covered by Olivet, but a late whistle caused some poking after the play. Freshman defenseman Dylan Higgins saw the need to go in and protect his goaltender and pulled an Alabama player off of the goalie.
With just over three minutes left in the game, Alabama pulled goaltender Vinson for the extra man on offense. With about 90 seconds left, Alabama struck again, cutting the Cats’ lead to 6-5, which would serve as the final score.
The Cats lost to the Dayton Flyers 5-4 Saturday night.
Two early penalties to assistant captain Jeremy Schmidt caused the Cats to fall back on their heels to start the game. While UK managed to kill those two penalties, a third to sophomore forward Jacob Cohen proved to be just the thing the Flyers needed. Dayton led 1-0 to close out the first period.
“We had some good moments, but the bad moments definitely cost us,” junior goaltender Aaron Tenfelde said.
McLaughlin was the first UK player to find the back of the net, creating a tied game. Less than two minutes later, a miscommunication in front of the Cats’ net would result in Dayton taking a lead that the Flyers wouldn’t relinquish again.
“We really need to put 60 minutes together,” McLaughlin said.
Despite another goal from McLaughlin and an additional two from Rohar and junior forward Ryan Thomas, Dayton would add goals of their own and hold on to win the game 5-4.
“We never gave up,” Rohar said.
The Cats return to the the ice at Akron on Friday and Saturday evening.