College rivals square off on the ice

By Blake Long/Special to the Journal

TUPELO – Following a lengthy holiday layoff, Mississippi State and Ole Miss return to the ice tonight to begin a two-game series.
Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 tonight and Saturday at the BancorpSouth Arena. Tickets are $6 and will be available at the door each night.
Neither teams has played since a doubleheader weekend in Tupelo at the beginning of December. Ole Miss swept Alabama and Arkansas while Mississippi State fell to Memphis and Alabama.
Those two victories elevated the Rebels to No. 9 in the latest American Collegiate Hockey Association South rankings.
“We ask a lot of our players on and off the ice,” said Ole Miss coach Kristian Skou. “It gives them self accomplishment to know their hard work is paying off.”
Working the rust off and getting back into game shape has been a concern for both Skou and Bulldogs coach Bruce Toppin.
“We probably had the longest break of any of the SEC schools,” Skou said. “They better be ready, but luckily we have a deep roster. If they are a little rusty we can replace them.”
MSU at full strength
For the Bulldogs that may be a bit more difficult. MSU has played at times this season without its full roster, but Toppin said Wednesday that should not be a problem this weekend.
Skou was impressed with sophomore goalkeeper Josh Hukill in the Rebels (9-8, 1-1 South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference) last outing. Hukill has a team-high 91 percent save rate.
Likewise, Mississippi State (0-8, 0-4) has relied heavily on goalie Stephen Diaz in the net this season.
“He’s seen a lot of rubber and has hung in there,” Toppin said.
Ole Miss took two games from the Bulldogs last season by a combined score of 17-2 to take the lead in the all-time series, 5-4.