Santa Rosa, California (September 2, 2016): The Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association announced today that it will restructure as a Division II league after more than forty years as a Division III group within the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Under the tutelage of new President Jim Schrage, the PCHA is now home to eight DII teams from throughout California. Longstanding PCHA members UC Davis, Santa Rosa Junior College and San Francisco State University are joined this season by Santa Clara University, Cal Lutheran University, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego. Santa Clara, UCSB and UCSD are all former PCHA members.
With these new teams, the PCHA is now once again a California-wide league. Previously, the PCHA housed teams from both California and Arizona. After Cal State Northridge and Northern Arizona University departed on 2012, College of the Canyons was left as the only non-northern state club. It voluntarily withdrew that year to become an independent ACHA team. The PCHA reformed as a Northern-California only league the next season, preserving its history as the longest-running hockey club league in the nation.
Ushering the PCHA into this next era is Schrage, general manager of the College of the Canyons hockey team. He, and Santa Rosa Junior College Hockey General Manager Tom Billeter, was instrumental in restructuring the PCHA after years of working towards transitioning their respective clubs to ACHA Division II status. Until May 2016, the ACHA limited DII participation to only four-year universities. Schrage’s petition to the ACHA was carried forth by the Association’s Chief Executive and granted by league commissioners. This change allowed the PCHA to move up to DII status, putting it on the same level as every hockey program currently playing in the state.
“As the co-founder of the COC program, I have been involved with the PCHA for the past 15 years. We were once the premier hockey league in the nation, even having assisted the ACHA, sitting on its founding formation panel. Although the cost of being a lone D3 independent ultimately cost COC an opportunity to continue competing— having no program this season— it allowed me to focus on the goal set long ago of raising the league back to its deserved prominence, competing at a higher level, with teams representing the entire state of California,” Schrage said. “With the start of the 2016-17 season, we have succeeded in homologating hockey in California, and I’m blessed to have been able to be a part of the process, surrounded by persons of equal determination and vision, and to be able to witness a real-life dream come true.”
Schrage and Billeter, along with Secretary Spencer Votipka (Cal Lutheran) and Treasurer Gunther Schuler (UC Davis), have big plans for the league going forward. This leadership group are working towards growing the PCHA into an elite, competitive ACHA League. Several clubs are expected to join the PCHA in the future, including Schrage’s COC team.
With eight active teams, the league can once again host the PCHA championship tournament at the conclusion of the regular season. The league officially award the coveted Adams Cup to the victor of its four-team playoff tournament. In 2016, the cup was played for by the top two regular-season teams in a winner-takes-all style game. This tournament is expected back in February 2017.
A forfeit was not the way that the SRJC Hockey Team wanted to win its second division title in two years, but after a streak of unsportsmanlike conduct Santa Clara University conceded the PCHA championship game Feb. 9, 5-3.
The Polar Bears took their season-long PCHA domination into the Division Tournament this past weekend, with a 13-0 record against their rivals. After beating Sacramento State University 17-2 on Feb. 8 to advance to the next round, it was clear from the puck drop that a win over Santa Clara would not come as easily as before.
SRJC started out slow, allowing Santa Clara a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period. Confidence was low as players left the ice for the first intermission, but it completely turned around when they came out for the next period.
“Tom [Polar Bear head coach] told us to keep it positive, keep the wheels turning,” said forward Jackson Joyce. “We were on pace to win the game and needed to believe they couldn’t skate with us.”
That pep talk was all the team needed to get back to controlling the ice. As goalie Chris Tomaszewski completed save after save, Polar Bear forward Jimmy Reed netted two back-to-back goals that changed the momentum of the game. Santa Clara stole one last goal in the period, but defensemen Sam Davis scored on a power play to end the second period at a 3-3 tie.
The third period was a mix of petty fights, miscues and power play opportunities. SRJC points leader Josiah Nikkel took a feed from defenseman Brandon Bronze to score a power play goal as the third period opened, then seconds later Nikkel forced another big penalty. The Polar Bears were not able to capitalize on that man advantage, but did on the next 5-on-4 play. From the left side of the goal, John Keshishian put one past the goalie to give SRJC the 5-3 lead they deserved.
In a matter of seconds, everything crumbled for Santa Clara. Angered over the last play, the team’s goalie confronted the referee and was ejected for abuse of an official. Tempers flared on the Santa Clara bench, with several players receiving penalties and the head coach being ejected. Without a backup goaltender, Santa Clara forfeited the last 4:30 of the game.
A hush came over the arena as no one knew what had happened at first, but soon SRJC rushed the ice and it was all smiles from there. The team accepted the PCHA trophy and division trophy (given to the team for ending the regular season as the number one seed), and then victoriously hoisted it in the air.
The celebration was short lived though, as the team anxiously awaits the ACHA Regional playoffs Feb 21-23 in Nebraska. The PCHA win was a nice sendoff into a weekend tournament that will pit the best teams in the ACHA’s Division III against each other. SRJC knows regionals won’t be easy, but it is confident it can steal two wins to advance to the national tournament in March.
“I think you could ask anyone on the team about the regional tournament and they would all say that every team in that tournament is beatable and we're in control of our own destiny,” said defenseman Steven Dempsey. “If we bring the effort, we'll be rewarded; if we don't, we'll be disappointed. But we're not focusing on other teams, we're focusing on being the best we can and taking that through this year's playoff run.”
The SRJC Polar Bears move up one position in the Pacific when the American Collegiate Hockey Association released its secondary ranking last Monday. Now ranked 4th, The Polar Bears are looking at a berth to the ACHA Pacific Regional Tournament taking place in Nebraska in mid-February.
During the ranking period the SRJC Polar Bears won 4 games including hard fought battles against the 4th ranked Northern Colorado University.
ACHA Secondary Rankings:
2 Aurora University
3 Colorado State
4 Santa Rosa Junior College
5 Northern Colorado
6 Metro State University of Denver
7 Robert Morris University
8 Northern Arizona University
9 Marquette University
Click to view the entire ACHA rankings.
In its first season as part of the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association, the SRJC hockey team defeated UC Davis 9-5 Feb. 24 to win the 2013 PCHA Championship title.
The Polar Bears traveled to Lake Tahoe Feb. 23-24 for the PCHA playoffs as the number 2 seed. Matched against Santa Clara University in the first round, SRJC prepared for another battle against the impressive Santa Clara goalie.
SRJC forward Don Coyle scored to open the game before Santa Clara shot back-to-back goals. Alexi Kulikouskiy tied it with seven minutes left in the period, followed by another SRJC goal for a 3-1 lead. Tied at five going into the third period, the Polar Bears scored three more goals for an 8-5 win and a spot in the Championship game.
The next day SRJC faced the number one seed UC Davis, who beat Sacramento State University the day before. The Polar Bears handed Davis its only loss of the regular season in a 7-6 overtime win Jan. 25.
Davis scored first but SRJC forward Josiah Nikkel tied the score soon after. At the end of the first period SRJC was up 3-1.
Six minutes into the second period, defenseman Bryan Vrba shot one past the Davis goaltender to pad the lead. Davis scored on a power play to come within one but SRJC’s Chris Whitten got the point back a minute later. At the end of the period the Polar Bears were on top 7-4.
Polar Bear’s forward Adam Johnson added a goal in the third period before SRJC goalie Chris Tomaszewski let one by with three minutes to go. Davis went with an extra attacker in the final two minutes but couldn’t pull off a comeback. As the clock ran out, Nikkel scored an empty net goal to seal a 9-5 victory.
With the final buzzer, the Polar Bear’s bench poured onto the ice in celebration. Marcel Delagnes, Kulikouskiy, Blake Johnson and Cam Davis accepted the Adam’s Cup trophy on behalf of the team as SRJC hockey fans cheered on. Players took turns posing with trophy, relishing in the team’s hard fought victory.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to play and win with. Everybody worked their tails off, and it paid off,” Blake Johnson said. “I’m honored to be a part of SRJC’s first PCHA title.”
With this title, the Polar Bears have a lot to be proud of and an exciting 2013-14 season awaits the club.
“This win is huge for the SRJC hockey program, it gives us something that we can hang our hats on and that nobody can take from the club,” coach Tom Billeter said. “This title is a building block for our next goal, to participate in the ACHA national tournament. The PCHA title is very important to us and should provide plenty of confidence for the club as we look forward to next season.”
Fans have one last chance to see the PCHA Champion SRJC Hockey team as it hosts the annual alumni game March 16 at Snoopy’s Home Ice.
The Polar Bears of The Santa Rosa Junior College will be the second seed in the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association’s 37th Annual Adams Cup Championship hosted at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena on February 23 and 24.
In the first of two doubleheaders, the 1st place Aggies, with a league record of 11 wins and 1 loss, will meet Cal Sate Sacramento with 2 wins and 10 losses at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Leading U.C. Davis are PCHA’s top three scorers, Gordon Dickson with 66 points, Lucas Digati, 43 points and Joey Koressel also with 43 points. Sac State is lead by Matt Grindstoff who managed 7 goals and 8 assists for 15 points during the regular season. The Hornets of Sacramento State will also have their hands full with Aggie goaltender Niklas Braun who managed a goals against average of only 3.34 per game – best for the season in the PCHA.
The second game of the double header single elimination tournament will see second place Santa Rosa Junior College with a record of 9 wins and 3 loses face-off against 3rd place finisher Santa Clara University regular season record of 6 wins and 6 loses. Fortified with six consecutive wins, Santa Rosa’s Polar Bears are lead by Josiah Nikkel, 33 points, Christopher Whitten, 23 points and Aliaksei Kulikousky with 19 points. The Broncos of Santa Clara, supervised with the capable goaltending of Christina Wood, have equally strong offense lead by Gage Emerson, Scott Fronsdahl and David Griffin.
The winner of each game will face-off on Sunday at 11:15 a.m. for the 37th Annual Adams Cup Championship Final. The two runner-up teams will meet at 9 a.m. for 3rd place in the Sunday double header.
Admission to each double header is $5.00 with all proceeds to support the member clubs of the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association, which is completing its 41st season. Live streaming of each game may be secured through Black Dog Enterprises, http://www.blackdogenterprises.org/ProjectsBDLive-SJSU.php.