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Smitty’s Scrum: Auburn Hockey at Alabama preview

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Storylines, matchups, how to watch, and more: it’s all here.

Image via University of Alabama Club Ice Hockey

The Auburn Tigers are headed on the road to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide for the first time since 2019. What are the storylines, who are the players to watch, what kind of outcome might we see, and how can you watch the game? All of that (and more) is below.

For the uninitiated seeking an explainer of the most basic rules of hockey, read the recent Hockey 101 article from College and Magnolia posted here.

The Iron Cup, renewed

It’s been over two years since Auburn and Alabama last met on the frozen battlefield for an evening of war on ice, but the last time the Tigers faced the Tide’s best roster dates even further back. Alabama’s ACHA Division One roster remains unbeaten against Auburn and has yet to even play a close game against the Orange & Blue, racking up lofty scoring totals year in and year out. While we do not have a record of the score from the last time the visiting Tigers faced off against their older sibling, Auburn assistant captain Brandon Weis remarked that the team was “beaten handily” in their 2018 match.

Fortunately, our heroes from the Plains have drastically improved the on-ice product since that unfortunate drubbing, managing Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference playoff appearances and even a jubilant playoff victory in overtime against South Carolina. Weis concedes that the team might not have it all figured out yet given the abrupt shortening of their offseason:

The team has been looking to shake the rust off in this first month of practice and start building chemistry. We are very excited for the game, however aren’t putting too much stock in it as a measuring stick for the rest of our season.

However, the senior forward feels that the Tigers are well stocked for a successful year within the conference and is excited to bring a high-caliber product to Auburn fans everywhere.

Key players

Alabama:

Members of the Tide’s front office have been impressed with the exploits of junior forward Chandler Bilodeau and senior left winger Gianni Dini. Neither have scored particularly well within ACHA play, posting a combined 17 points in 67 games, but Alabama Hockey President Delaney Galbraith cited them as “players to watch” in tonight’s contest. Due to a lack of game tape and detailed information on the Tide, we’ll have to take her word for it.

Auburn:

The Tigers have added a key name in Noah Henry, a 20-year-old center who last played in the USPHL’s Premier Division, which is classified as a Tier I youth hockey league under USA Hockey. Henry scored at a decent clip against higher-end competition and projects to be one of the most explosive players on Auburn’s roster this year. For a Tigers roster that’s lost plenty of scoring over the past two years, the rookie’s presence should provide a big boost.

The Orange & Blue also return top scorer Brandon Weis, whose physical style of play should quickly establish him as a fan favorite. The senior forward blends an underrated scoring touch with a nasty, grinding, win-at-all-costs approach to games that ought to keep Auburn’s bench motivated and buzzing throughout the year. Another veteran to watch is Blake Robison, who should rank among the team’s leading scorers after posting an impressive 29 points in 24 games during the 2019-20 season.

Last but not least is forward Chuck Bay, who joins the team after recently playing in the WSHL, a league that was mostly absorbed into the USPHL’s Premier Division in 2020. Bay and Henry appear to be the cornerstones of a Tigers program looking to win its first SEC Championship sooner rather than later. The 22-year-old should add to Auburn’s already exciting depth up front in what should be a high-scoring product.

Quick hits:

  • Alabama lost its entire 2020-21 season to COVID-19 and has recently encountered financial difficulties. The Tide’s home opener serves as a reminder of how fantastic hockey within the state can be, and as an example of why this program (and SEC hockey in general) is worth supporting. To donate to Alabama, click here or here; for Auburn, click here.
  • The Tigers enter 2021-22 without stud goalie Hayden Harris, who consistently posted 50 save games in some of the program’s biggest victories to date. Auburn’s goaltending will be an important nexus of analysis as the season goes on.
  • The Orange & Blue will field their largest team in program history with 34 players.
  • Auburn will be without top defenseman Henry Humphrey, who is reportedly still recovering from a torn ACL. Standout freshman defender James Willoughby Ray is listed as a game time decision.
  • The Tide will be coached by former Birmingham Bull and Knoxville Ice Bear Phil Tesoriero. After leading Alabama’s Division III team to a 10-9-1 record and a 4-3 overtime win against Auburn in his most recent season, the ex-SPHL defenseman has taken over the program’s top team.
  • Tickets cost $10 per person and are available for purchase online here.
  • The Tigers will be wearing their brand new white uniforms for the first time ever. These new jerseys will be available for purchase some time in the next year, according to team sources.

Enjoy the game (whether watching via streaming or in person) and be sure to show your support for the Tigers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. That’s all for this edition of Smitty’s Scrum; good day and good hockey. War Eagle.