In the lead up to hockey season on the Plains, the Auburn Tigers have been busy. With tryouts, off-ice training, and an upcoming media day all on the docket, it was a bit of a blessing that the opening game of the season on Oct. 15 against UCF was far in the distance.
However, when the presented with the chance to play the University of Alabama on Sept. 17, the club leapt at the chance, adding the game to the schedule and hastily accelerating preparations for their first match of the year. The Tigers will face off against the Frozen Tide in Birmingham at the Pelham Civic Complex; puck drop is at 7:00 PM.
Alabama’s program is currently suffering from financial difficulties and may face the threat of disbandment if they do not receive proper funding in the near future. This rivalry matchup will serve as the team’s home opener, and marks the first time since 2019 that the two sides have met.
Alabama currently competes at the D-I and D-II levels of the ACHA, while Auburn remains in the D-II CHF member Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference alongside the majority of existing SEC programs. While hate does exist between the two programs, it’s largely been one-sided, with Alabama outscoring the Tigers 160-38 and going 17-0 over the first six seasons of the Iron Cup being played. However, Auburn managed to finally get the upper hand in 2019, defeating Alabama for the first time ever in front of a raucous home crowd and ending the season with a winning record against their crimson foes. For two programs seemingly headed in opposite directions, this game means more than the final score could ever indicate. Will Auburn once again pull off the upset, or will the Tide return to their historic dominance? We’ll have to wait and see.
In other scheduling news, the Tigers’ home opener on Oct. 23 was briefly jeopardized after their original opponent, Miami, suffered a program suspension. With nobody to play on a critical stretch within the season’s planned approach to fan engagement, President Brandon Weis reached out to some friends within the conference who were happy to help. The University of Tennessee Ice Volunteers will travel to Columbus for a date with the Orange & Blue on opening weekend.
When reached for comment on how the two programs managed to come to an agreement so quickly, said team President Drew King:
Auburn traveled to Knoxville last semester during the shortened COVID-19 season so we wanted to return the favor and play at Auburn but original scheduling efforts didn’t work out. After we heard that Miami series was cancelled I checked our schedule and saw we were off. Perfect opportunity to return the favor.
In the end, Auburn likely ends up benefitting from what originally was a predicament, adding another compelling SECHC matchup to their schedule. The Ice Vols won the SECHC’s inaugural championship and have long been a power within the conference, although recent seasons have seen a decline in win totals. Both programs made the 2020 playoffs, with Auburn ranked No. 7 and Tennessee at No. 8. A renewed effort to make it back to the postseason will begin when the two meet yet again in October.