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Hockey Day in Tampa Bay Features Tortorella, USF-UT Showdown

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USF Ice Bulls

UPDATED 2/14/15 9 A.M. WITH RESCHEDULED GAME, RANKINGS AND PLAYOFF SCHEDULE: It's tough to say Tampa's not a hockey town when you look at the highlights of Sunday's "Hockey Day in Tampa Bay."

There's a "battle of the badges" game, the Lightning Cup Finals pitting two local high school teams against one another and a showdown between the University of South Florida Ice Bulls and the University of Tampa Spartans.

And if all that's not enough, top it all off with former Lightning Stanley Cup-winning head coach John Tortorella, who will coach in the Lightning Conference All-Star Game against one of his former players, Dave Andreychuk.

According to Lightning executive director of community hockey development Jay Feaster, the day puts the spotlight on all levels of hockey in the Bay area.

“From youth to high school to adult, from ice to street to sled hockey, literally every program our Community Hockey Department interacts with during the year will be on display at Hockey Day. The fact that all of the proceeds will go to charity makes it even more special, and we are looking forward to an incredible day of hockey.”

USF goalie Alex Miller is looking forward to taking to the same ice as some of his favorite players on the Lightning.

"You know, it's cool walking there, and feeling like this is where the Lightning walk out, and some of the NHL greats walk out and play on," the senior accounting major said. "So it's pretty cool to play on the same surface that guys like (Steven) Stamkos and (Victor) Hedman play on."

And team captain, graduate student Matthew Meyer, awaits one last go-around on a professional rink in front of bigger crowds than the ones that come out to USF's regular home arenas in Oldsmar and Ellenton.

"It's real nice to get that experience that the NHL players get when they're taking the same ice," Meyer said. "It's definitely a cool experience, and we usually pack a big house there - well, it doesn't look like it, but compared to our normal games we get a decent amount so it's a good day for us."

It's the next to last regular season game for the red-hot Ice Bulls (16-9-2-1), who are undefeated in their last 7 games (5-0-2-0) and have moved up to third in the rankings for the American Collegiate Hockey Association South Region. University of Tampa (12-11-2-1) is ranked 10th.

It will be the first of three games between the two teams in six days. USF and UT will face off again Wednesday, February 18th, at 9 p.m. at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex in a game originally scheduled for Saturday. Then they'll play Friday, February 20th, at 4:30 p.m. in the first round of the South Region playoffs in Orlando. Two teams will advance from the Regional playoffs to play in the ACHA Divsion 3 National Tournament in Pelham, Alabama.

Tickets for "Hockey Day in Tampa" are $10, with proceeds going to the Lightning Foundation, benefiting the Lightning Sled Hockey Program.

Proceeds will also go to the Sun Coast Law Enforcement Charities, Inc., benefiting the family of slain Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek, who Alex Miller was very familiar with.

"My dad's a sergeant over at Tarpon Springs Police Department, he's been there over 20 years now, and I've known Charlie since I was a baby."

Sunday's game will be broadcast at 11:30 a.m. on Bulls Radio 1620 AM on campus, 89.7 HD3 Tampa, or online at BullsRadio.org.

HOCKEY DAY IN TAMPA BAY SCHEDULE
Street Hockey on Ford Thunder Alley (outside, free)        8:00 AM
Doors Open                                                                                10:15 AM
University of Tampa vs. USF                                                  11:15 AM
Sled Hockey (Lightning alumni vs. TB Sled Hockey)         1:45 PM
Lightning Conference All-Star Game
             (Team Tortorella vs. Team Andreychuk)                 3:15 PM
Battle of the Badges (local police vs. local fire,
             John Tortorella will coach both teams)                   5:00 PM
Lightning Cup  (high school)                                                   7:00 PM
Lightning vs. Sharks Watch Party                                          8:30 PM