It was a showcase to remember as the SRJC hockey team dominated its competition this weekend at the third annual Wine Country Collegiate Classic, winning all three matches and solidifying its place among the best of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Welcoming UC Davis, College of the Canyons and the University of Northern Colorado, the Polar Bears felt confident they would continue their first half success. From the first puck drop Thursday, Nov. 7 to the final buzzer on Saturday, Nov. 9, SRJC wowed opponents and fans alike as it never backed down once on its path to victory.
Thursday: SRJC 8 vs. UC Davis 3
The rivalry between these two clubs has slowly built over the last year with each match more heated than the last. Between UC Davis’ PCHA championship loss and SRJC handing the team its first defeat of the new season, this first showcase match was sure to be exciting.
SRJC struck first as defenseman Eric Zagacki shot one past the right side of the Davis goalie to give his team the lead with five minutes left in the first period. The pass from Josiah Nikkel to Zagacki upped Nikkel’s personal point streak to 14 games. Forward John Keshishian scored one more before Davis scored back-to-back to tie the score at two to end the period.
It was all SRJC in the second, tacking on four goals including two by Adam Johnson. The Polar Bear defense limited Davis’ action in the period including a sweet glove save by Troy Tennison after a breakaway. The Polar Bears continued their dominance in the third period as Johnson completed the hat trick with help once again from defensemen Brian Cochran and Sam Davis. As the minutes ran down and Tennison was called for interference, Davis scored on a power play as the goalies changed on the fly. But Brandon Bronze closed out the period with a shot, sealing an 8-3 victory.
Friday: SRJC 10, College of the Canyons 0
Tempers flared for most of the game as CoC looked to avenge the 10-4 loss the Polar Bears handed the team two weeks ago. The first period was scoreless as each team defended its end of the ice near flawlessly, but it was Polar Bear goalie Chris Tomaszewski that proved to be perfect.
The sophomore goalie stopped everything that came his way as teammate Dylan Dixon scored two goals to top a six-goal second period. The Polar Bears put up four more in the third, shutting out the Southern California team 10-0. Tomaszewski saved 15 shots, earning his six win of the season and first shutout.
Josiah Nikkel continue his point streak, notching two goals and three assists on the night, complimenting Dixon (2 goals, 1 assist) and Chris Whitten (1 goal, 3 assists).
Saturday: SRJC 3. University of Colorado 2
Like the Polar Bears, Colorado had won its first two matches of the showcase by big margins over CoC and Davis. Earlier in the day both teams were ranked in the top 10 of the ACHA’s Division III, making the matchup between SRJC (#5) and Colorado (#3) one of the biggest games of the season.
The game did not disappoint as both teams battled to prove which one was the showcase’s best. Polar Bear Jimmy Reed struck first three minutes into the first, a lead SRJC hung onto for 10 minutes before Colorado tied the score and then made it 2-1 on a power play. Frustration set in as both teams were called for multiple penalties in the second. After killing off a call for interference, Josiah Nikkel tied the score off a pass from Blake Johnson and Dylan Dixon. It would stay tied until midway through the third period when Cochran scored a power play goal to give SRJC the lead. Fans were on the edge of their seats as the team traded penalties for the last couple of minutes of the game. But the Polar Bears held on to win 3-2.
Sweeping the weekend was a big boost for SRJC’s record, but more importantly it allowed for the Polar Bears to come together as a team and show they are the ones to beat this season.
“We all knew that CoC and UNC would come to play and it’s always exciting to get to play big games in our barn. Our fans create a rough environment for the visitors,” Tomaszewski said. “These three wins are huge for the club. Last weekend made SRJC Hockey a real contender in the run for nationals and it gives new resolve to the team. We’ve got to keep working hard- there’s a lot of hockey left.”
There’s nothing better than a weekend full of intense hockey matches, and luckily for Polar Bear fans some of the best collegiate teams are about to invade Snoopy’s Home Ice.
The Polar Bears will host the third annual Wine Country Collegiate Classic November 7-9, welcoming three top teams from the American Collegiate Hockey Association to its rink. College of the Canyons, UC Davis and the University of Northern Colorado will arrive Thursday for a three-day showcase that will surely test all teams as each look to gain a step ahead on the path to nationals.
The showcase will kick off Thursday, November 7 with the Polar Bears taking on UC Davis at 6:30 p.m. SRJC faced their PCHA rival in early October, just barely claiming an 8-7 victory. But instead of playing in an unfriendly Vacaville Ice, the Polar Bears will face Davis for the first time at home, and are confident they will once again come out on top.
College of the Canyons will close out day one of the showcase against the University of Northern Colorado at 9 p.m. CoC will need to channel its national championship form as it looks for win number one on the season against a surging Colorado quad.
On Friday, November 8, Colorado will take on UC Davis at 5:30 p.m. for the first game, followed by the Polar Bears 8 p.m. match against CoC. SRJC played the Southern California team two weeks ago in a 10-4 win. While the match signaled SRJC’s fifth double-digit win of the season, CoC kicked it up a notch in the third period of the match, nearly marking a comeback. This time around SRJC will need to make sure it maintains consistency throughout the game.
The last day of the showcase will pit the Polar Bears against Colorado at 5:30 p.m., a team they have yet to play. Colorado has an impressive 11-1-1 record, winning their last nine games including a 15-5 victory over Creighton University last weekend. Like SRJC, Colorado scores early and often and has eight different players with double digit points. The Polar Bears will have to watch out for Freshman Mike Tabrum, who currently leads Colorado with 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists).
The final game of the night will be CoC against UC Davis.
With the first set of league rankings coming up in the next few weeks, SRJC needs to continue to prove they are the team to beat this season. After starting out 8-0, the Polar Bears broke even in their last six games (3-3 record) and need to find the consistency and control they displayed before. The team knows these showcase matches will be a huge factor in as the rest of the season unfolds.
“We've had these three showcase games circled on the calendar from the beginning of the year,” said head coach Tom Billeter. “We expect Northern Colorado and College of the Canyons to be ranked with us, so there will be a lot riding on those two games. Three wins this weekend could solidify our ranking as a top 10 team.”
This weekend will be an exciting time for fans as it is one of the last home matches before SRJC breaks for winter. Players hope all fans come out to a game to help them conquer this competition.
“I’m really looking forward to my first showcase with the team,” said Jackson Waldron. “We play some tough teams that should be a good test for us. We’ve got the best fans in the league, so it’ll be great to host this showcase in our own barn.”