A 17-1 win? Now that’s the SRJC Hockey team we know and love!
In their last game of 2014, the Polar Bears completely dominated San Francisco State in a lopsided victory that saw production from every single player.
Coming off a disheartening series the weekend before, the Polar Bears faced their PCHA rival Dec. 13 looking to get back in the win column.
Knowing the game wouldn’t be as intense as prior matches, SRJC was able to sit ailing players and allow others to take the reins. This included inserting rookie goalie Dylan Farinacci in net, and putting starting goaltender Dominic Jones onto the forward line.
With different pairings, SRJC needed a few minutes to adjust before going on an offensive frenzy. Points leader Josiah Nikkel kicked it off with an unassisted goal at 16:24; he followed it up with another goal 10 minutes later. Matt Katicich and Patrick Parnell also got in on the action, giving SRJC a comfortable 4-0 lead to end the period.
SRJC didn’t waste any time in the second, with John Keshishian scoring eight seconds after puck drop. Katicich and Parnell added two more goals, as did freshman points leader Josh Greenwell. Nikkel completed the hat trick in the second, paving way for Greenwell, Katicich and Keshishian (four goals) to do the same in the third period.
Most of the action stayed in the Polar Bear’s attack zone, although Farinacci received several chances to show off on his end of the ice. Getting his first start, the rookie made some impressive saves to stop SFSU from scoring several times in the second period. Only blemish on Farinacci’s night came with 1:24 left in the game, when SFSU scored a goal that barely looked like it touched net.
“It was a great shot, nothing you can do about that. It just got by me,” Farinacci said.
This was the first time this season one of the Polar Bear’s freshman goalies got the chance to start a match. Mostly Jones and veteran Jacob Pavsek have guarded the net in the first half.
“I was extremely nervous, but as soon as I stepped on the ice the nerves were gone and I was ready to play,” Farinacci said of his first start in goal.
Also getting his first taste in a way was Tommy Dennen. The rookie forward scored his first goal as a Polar Bear, with an unassisted shot for the eventual 17-1 win.
“I think I had to get my confidence there, take advantage of my opportunities more. I was a little passive sometimes, thinking it would come to me,” Dennen said of his long-awaited first point. “I’ve been skating a little harder and tying to be more a part of the unit.”
The SFSU win is a huge confidence booster for the Polar Bears, who have made the best of a month ladened with injury and ineligibility. Head coach Mike Kovanis said this win came at a perfect time and yielded several advantages such as pairing different pieces to see what worked and getting some players more ice time.
Going forward SRJC will need production from all of their lines, and Kovanis was happy to see production from Dennen, Parnell and Travis LaBrucherie who had three assists.
“I think a lot of guys, like those mentioned, have stepped up and done what’s been asked of them with moving around in the lines. This has been from a combination of necessity and a bit of experiment,” Kovanis said. “We like to see how guys react in various roles and show the staff what they’re capable of. This allows us to have greater options for in-game decisions and we’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen.”
The Polar Bears will break for the winter session and return to competition Jan.17, 2015 in an away game against Stanford University. They will return to Snoopy’s Home Ice a week later.
The second round of official American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings were released Dec. 12, and after a tough showing over the last month the SRJC hockey team now sits at no. 11 in the Pacific Region.
Falling out of the no. 6 spot was expected after a challenging 10-game span that resulted in a 2-5-3 record. Despite playing relatively well in those games, the fall in rankings seems to be based on strength of schedule since SRJC still owns a respectable 12-6-3 record.
While current rankings have the team just out of reach of a top 10 spot needed for February’s Regional Tournament, the Polar Bears are confident they can bounce back in the next rankings cycle.
“I think the rankings reflect that even with the tough stretch in November the [rankings] committee is still leaving the door open for us to creep back into the Regionals talk,” said head coach Mike Kovanis. “We have a good schedule against very solid DII programs in January and early February, which will hopefully allow us to get back into the top 10.”
With a month off from competition, SRJC can finally have some much-needed rest since starting the season in September. This will allow the team to recover and refocus on what is ahead.
“It’s unfortunate we lost players to serious injuries and some guys not staying committed to their teammates by not attending the Iowa trip, but the guys who are here and committed have what we need to play a strong second semester and meet our season goals,” Kovanis said.
The team will face several high-caliber teams in the New Year, including Division II squad Boise State and new opponent University of Nevada, Las Vegas. These games will have a direct impact on the next set of rankings, which will be announce in late January 2015.
Shortened bench. Stacked injuries. Shuffled lines.
These issues have plagued SRJC over the last month and played a big role as the team failed to garner a single win in a two-game series to open December against San Jose State University’s Division II team.
SRJC headed into competition Dec. 5 with a different looking lineup than previous games. Without leading scorers John Keshishian and Josh Greenwell for the game- and Alternate Captain Josiah Nikkel out for the first two minutes- head coach Mike Kovanis played three freshman forwards on the starting line against San Jose State.
Matt Katicich, Andrew Mason and Tommy Dennen were an interesting pairing in the regular starters’ absence, although the tag team of Mason and Katicich is one SRJC has seen before. The two first-year skaters usually hold down the wings on the third line, which has been shuffled around after the season-ending injury to center Jackson Waldron. Both skaters have produced nicely in 18 games and proved to be the difference against SJSU.
San Jose struck first with a rebounded goal off a sprawling Dominic Jones at the 17-minute mark of the first period; a minute later Stephen Wolmarans tied the score. Tensions grew as the period wore on, with neither team scoring for 11 minutes. In the remaining five minutes of the period, SJSU scored three goals, including one off a power play, and SRJC’s Katicich notched one with help from Blake Johnson.
SJSU held its 4-2 lead for most of second period, despite several shots on goal for both teams. Back-to-back five-minute advantages put SRJC on the power play for the remainder of the period. The team scored on the first chance as Mason put one in the net with a little less than four minutes to play.
Ultimately, the Polar Bears lost the match 5-3 but were optimistic about the Dec. 6 rematch.
“We came out slow in the first and didn’t have the team play that we needed, but we were very good in the second and third periods. We definitely picked it up- although we didn’t win the third,” said Eric Zagacki. “We need to pick it up tomorrow, go into it knowing we have to play hard all three periods. We can definitely come out with a W.”
The two teams met at Snoopy’s Home Ice for the Polar Bear’s last home game of 2014 the next day. It was scoreless well into the second period. Like the previous day, SJSU hit first but the Polar Bears weren’t far behind. Only minutes after San Jose scored, Johnson netted his own goal with an assist from Nikkel. It remained a 1-1 score until one minute remaining in the game.
With 42.3 seconds left on the clock, San Jose slide one past Jones for what looked like the winning goal. Then, with 1.1 seconds left in the game Nikkel found the back of the net to tie the score 2-2.
That goal sent the game to a five-minute overtime that saw no goal action. A nine-round shootout followed before finally someone was called the victor. SJSU took the match 3-2.
Despite losing both in regulation and in a shootout, there was a bright side to these games: the Polar Bear’s know what needs to be done going forward. Players understand the issues facing the team and how they can work around it.
“It’s definitely hard practicing once a week and showing up to games not knowing who’s going to be in the locker room or trying to put together a plan without knowing how many guys we have until that moment,” Mason said. “But if we can get a really solid group of guys to really commit for the second semester, to be there on time for all the games and practices, we can be that much better. It won’t be easy, but we can make it work.”
The Polar Bears look to end 2014 on a high note as they take on San Francisco State University at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in Oakland. SRJC has faced SFSU once this season, in an 18-0 home win in October.