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Clemson ice hockey team is ‘more serious than ever’ ahead of FSU matchup

Leah Marie Pereira
The Tigers warm up for their game against Georgia on Sept. 8.

The Clemson club ice hockey team will play its second and third games of the season this weekend on Friday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 24, at home against the Florida State Seminoles.

After its season-opening 3-1 loss to Georgia earlier this month, the team is serious about winning.

“Even though we lost last weekend, I don’t think it was for a lack of effort at all,” forward Tommy Papa said after the loss. “Coming into this year, we’re more serious than ever.”

Despite starting the year with a defeat, Clemson doesn’t believe that its first game is indicative of its talent or potential. The team is confident in its work ethic and is ready to prove itself.

“Our expectations are to win both games and come out of the weekend over .500, and I definitely expect us to create a lot more offense than we did against Georgia,” Papa said. “One goal isn’t enough when we’re as talented as we are offensively.”

The Tigers had 33 shots on goal against the Bulldogs but netted only one. They acknowledge that their inability to generate a dominant offensive performance was likely the result of minimal practice time before the game, leading them to struggle with cohesion and defense.

“Coming off of last weekend, I’d say we need to improve our defensive zone systems a lot,” Papa said. “Having a new coach and not many practices so far, it was tough, but now that we’ve had some more time to prepare, I expect us to be better.”

During the matchup with Georgia, the Tigers refused to give up, which led to forward Sully Kopf scoring Clemson’s only goal within the final two minutes. It’s this all-or-nothing mindset that the team believes will propel them toward success, not just this weekend but this season as a whole.

“I think if there’s one thing we can be counted on for every game, it’s that everyone is gonna give everything they have,” Papa said. “We all care too much about each other to be doing anything other than working our hardest, especially during games.”

Defenseman Conor Peterson echoed Papa’s sentiment.

“Our team’s biggest source of inspiration is each other. Every guy in the locker room is playing for the guys around them,” Peterson said.

Florida State played its first two games of the season last weekend against Saint Leo University — an exhibition game — and the University of North Florida. The Seminoles dominated both teams, defeating Saint Leo 10-4 and North Florida 15-2.

Though Florida State is currently listed as an AAU Division III team, its schedule last season featured one opponent that Clemson is familiar with: Georgia Tech.

On Jan. 13, the Seminoles lost 4-1 to the Yellow Jackets. Clemson tallied two wins over Georgia Tech last season: A 4-1 win on Oct. 7, 2022, and a 4-3 win on Jan. 20, just one week after Florida State’s loss.

For the Tigers, this weekend is just another stepping stone in a season-long journey. It’s not about being better than Florida State — it’s about being better than themselves.

“We all feel like we can make a serious run in Nationals this year, and we didn’t get the respect we deserved in the National rankings last year,” Papa said. “Some of our biggest rivals got moved up to DI, so us not being moved up with them, we definitely feel like we have something to prove.”

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Kelly Kaelblein
Kelly Kaelblein, Asst. Sports Editor
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