Lack of depth. Lack of experience.
The SRJC Hockey team’s two biggest shortcomings in the second half stifled the team on its biggest stage this season, as the Polar Bears fell in the first round of the 2017 Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament Feb. 17-19. Losing to longtime nemesis UC Davis in game one kept the Polar Bears from making PCHA history as the first team to win five-straight league titles.
Despite every confidence in the new-look Polar Bears, there’s no denying that this year’s PCHA Tournament was going to be a lot harder. The team finished the second half with a 1-6 record in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, with a 1-4 record against PCHA clubs.
Santa Rosa, California (February 15, 2017): The Santa Rosa Junior College Ice Hockey team announced today its official tournament schedule for the 2017 Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs. The team will play up to three games Feb. 17-19 in South Lake Tahoe against five PCHA teams and an invited guest.
FOUR-PEAT. FOUR-PEAT. FOUR-PEAT.
That was the chant echoing through Snoopy's Home Ice Jan. 30 as the SRJC Hockey team defeated UC Davis 7-3 to take home its fourth straight Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association Championship title.
Playing in front of a sold out, home crowd for the first time in their PCHA tenure, the Polar Bears couldn't have been more confident going into a championship match. The team beat Davis 9-5 just the night before, thanks in part to excellent goaltending by Jacob Pavsek and Josiah Nikkel's four-goal night.
It’s the official end of the 2013-14 season as SRJC’s spring semester ends, and despite a grueling playoff end in February it was still an incredible season for the Polar Bears.
The Polar Bears had high hopes this last season: a winning record, a division title, a national championship. But SRJC’s 7-2 loss to Robert Morris University in the first round of the ACHA Regionals playoffs Feb. 21, ended the team’s goal of getting to play on the national stage. Despite that disheartening loss, it capped arguably the best season the club has ever had.
After winning the PCHA championship to end the previous season, the Polar Bears entered this year’s competition with 23 healthy players and a newfound confidence. SRJC bolted out the gate, winning every game in September and October before suffering their first two losses on a grueling four-game weekend road trip. The team tried to bounce back against Division II rival San Jose State University, but the Polar Bears lost 5-3 for their third loss of the season.
Not liking the sting of defeat, the Polar Bears took a new attitude into November, beating the new club from San Francisco State University and sweeping the Wine Country Collegiate Classic. A complete turnaround from the year before when SRJC lost three straight games in its showcase, the Polar Bears leveled rival UC Davis, College of the Canyons and beat no. 3 ranked University of Northern Colorado. The WCCC got the Polar Bears back on track, both physically and mentally.
The team broke for winter in early December, winning its final two games of 2013 with impressive double-digit victories over San Jose State DIII (2-1) and San Francisco State (17-3). SRJC returned in the new year with a different look, but the same dominating play. It beat out the rest of the regular season with an overall record of 19-3.
With a smaller squad heading into postseason play, the odds were stacked against the Polar Bears. But that didn’t stop them from taking down Sacramento State University on day one of the PCHA Tournament, and forcing a forfeit from Santa Clara University in the championship game. The Polar Bears brought home the Adams Cup for the second consecutive year, sweeping their division rivals for a perfect PCHA record.
Alas, that postseason win would be it for SRJC this year. A terrible first period in game one of the ACHA Regional Tournament, doomed the Polar Bears and sent them back home without a bid to nationals. Still, as the no. 8th ranked team in the ACHA’s DIII, SRJC is a forced to be reckoned with.
The Polar Bears outscored their opponents 216-67, with 11 double-digit victories and an undefeated record in the PCHA.
Top skater Josiah Nikkel lead the team with 71 points (30 goals, 41 assists), with four shorthanded goals and two gamer winners. Chris Whitten, Adam Johnson and John Keshishian followed closely with 45, 44 and 43 points, respectively.
Dylan Dixon and Jimmy Reed lead all rookies, with 40 points (Dixon) and 35 points (Reed).
The SRJC’s goaltenders were nothing short of amazing throughout the season, as Chris Tomaszewski and Jacob Pavsek combined impressively throughout the year. Rookie Troy Tennison was among the top goalies in the ACHA DIII most of the year, before being sidelined in January.
The combination of all players, and strong leadership both on and off the ice, helped SRJC make this one for all to remember.
With the season done for the year, the club is tirelessly preparing for next year’s competition. Already, the recruitment process is looking optimistic and players are committed to being the best in all aspects.
Fans are encourage to check the team’s website and social media sites during the offseason for updates and information about the club and next season.
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.”