Winter Olympics Challenge: News 3 takes on ice hockey with UGA

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — In this Winter Olympics Challenge, News 3’s Stassy Olmos hits the ice with players from the University of Georgia’s ice hockey club team.

“I started playing, skating at least when I was three years old. So I started skating about the time that I started like walking pretty good,” said Carter Penzien, a forward on the Ice Dawgs team.

Defender Aaron Phillips started playing street hockey, he said, “after that, I started ice, and then just kind of fell in love with it.”

The trio started with the basics: skating.

“The easiest way to explain it is pretty much acting like you’re walking, but instead of picking up your foot, you’re gonna push off,” Penzien instructed Olmos.

Then adding turning, stopping, and skating backward.

“‘Turning is pretty much you’re just putting weight on your right foot if you want to turn right,” he added.

“So we’ve done the skating part of hockey, so as far as scoring, we have to be able to shoot the puck,” Penzien said, “There are different shots.”

He demonstrated each: wrist shot, snapshot, and slap shot. The first starts with the stick lower to the ground, and the last, raising the stick higher for a bigger swing.

A one-timer is a pass from a teammate with the intent they’ll make the goal.

It took Olmos a few tries.

“Wow, you’re gonna be in the big leagues in no time!” Penzien cheered.

But Phillips’ job is to make sure the opposing team doesn’t make a goal, and that’s his favorite part of the game.

“It’s like no, not today,” Phillips said, “My job as a defenseman is to put myself in between the net and the puck.”

He describes a scenario in the game: “Usually what happens is it’ll be like a 3 on 2, so I’ll kind of take him, try to push him this way…once that happens, I’d hit him.”

“You’re allowed to hit him?” Olmos asked.

“Oh yeah, as hard as you want to,” Phillips answered.

But if they happen to get passed, that’s where the goalie comes in.

Olmos suited up to see just how much skill it takes.

“Reflexes, rebound control…a lot of goalies, if you’re coming down on them, they’re gonna watch your eyes,” Penzien said, “Instead of looking at the puck and following the puck, he’s gonna be skipping a step and looking at my eyes to see where I’m shooting.”

Olmos caught a few pucks — and even dove for one.

“Wow look at that!” Carter yelled.

“I looked at your eyes!” Olmos responded.

Olmos asked the players what it was like to play a sport that’s in the Olympics.

“To have our country represented in the Olympics, playing for a medal, in the game that we play, is pretty cool,” Penzien answered.

When it comes to the dream of playing in the Olympics, Phillips said, “It’s something we like to think about and imagine, but it’s probably never gonna happen.”

For now, they’re trying to spread the passion here at home.

“Getting people in Georgia interested in hockey is pretty hard. We have people on campus obviously we wear our like hoodies our shirts or whatnot, and they’re like’Georgia has a hockey team?’ Penzien said.

But things are looking up. USA Hockey’s Southeastern District is the fastest growing in the nation, according to USA Hockey statistics.

In the last two decades, the number of those playing hockey has nearly doubled in both Georgia and South Carolina.

“There are rinks all over Georgia now and each of those rinks has hockey programs,” Penzien said. “Kids can play and play at whatever age they want, learn to skate, learn to play, and grow from there.”

One day — maybe even play in the Winter Olympics.

Be sure to check out the last Winter Olympics Challenge: What it takes to be a biathlete.

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