By: Keshia Knight, SRJC Hockey Staff Writer
A few fresh faces and a brand new attitude propelled the SRJC hockey team to victory last weekend as the Polar Bears opened 2013 with a series of dominating wins.
The team bolstered its roster with five new recruits as it took the ice Jan. 11 against Ventura County College. Three former players- Adam Johnson, Bryan Vrba and Chris Tomaszewski - and new skaters Michael Olsgaard and Chase Bierbower looked to help SRJC continue its win streak from 2012.
It didn’t take long for the new players to make an impact as both Vrba and Johnson assisted Alexi Kulikouskiy’s goal to give the Polar Bears a 2-0 lead in the first period. Johnson scored his first goal back in an SRJC uniform with two minutes left in the period.
The Polar Bears kept control into the second as defenseman Sam Davis scored his second goal of the night; Johnson added a goal on a breakaway to make it 6-1. In the end, SRJC skated off the ice with an 11-1 victory.
Joining Davis and Johnson’s multi-point night was Kulikouskiy (3 goals, 2 assists), Blake Johnson (3 assists) and John Keshishian (2 goals, 1 assist). Josiah Nikkel scored the last goal of the night to bring his season point total to 42 (22 goals, 20 assists).
SRJC headed to Fresno the next day for a weekend series against Fresno State University. The Polar Bears beat Fresno Jan. 12 by a score of 15-2 and the next day came out on top 8-2. Jackson Joyce scored a hat trick in the first game, followed by a Willis Swift hat trick in the second.
After nagging injuries and a string of bad luck in the first half of the season, SRJC has found a successful strategy in its current five-game win streak. A key to that success is players learning to play as a team and not as individuals.
“Selfish play is what our player’s resorted to last semester when in close games or when playing from behind,” Coach Tom Billeter said. “The players now understand that in order to get the results we want they need to play for the guy next to them, not themselves, and everyone will benefit. It has been gratifying for all the players to see the camaraderie that comes with playing as a team.”
The team has a chance to continue this new mentality as it tries to redeem itself against Santa Clara University Jan. 19 at Snoopy’s. SRJC lost to Santa Clara 7-4 in October. The Polar Bears will first take on UC San Diego at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 at Snoopy’s.