Photo by: Christina Wigs
Coming off a huge 4-1 victory over Santa Clara University Jan. 9, the SRJC Hockey team heads into its last Southern California road trip of the season with a newfound confidence and energy.
The Polar Bears head down south this week to take on College of the Canyons (Jan. 14) and Division II opponent Cal State Fullerton (Jan. 15-16). While the team is still getting used to its new line combinations, players are focused on what needs to get done and what will get them the win.
Starting off the weekend series, SRJC faces its longtime rival in CoC. This game is huge for the Polar Bears as the outcome sets the tone for the rest of the trip.
The two teams previously met Nov. 5 in an 8-2 SRJC win. That game saw production from up and down the team's lineup, with nearly every player touching the puck. Players noted that breakouts and passing were issues that lead to unnecessary penalties and unexecuted systems, but are sure those won't be a problem this time.
"In that first CoC game early last semester we were kind of up and down in the first 20 minutes," said Stephen Wolmarans, who scored one goal, one assist that game. "But we had a lot of success just pressuring the puck and taking their space away. We've really got to push the pace so we can start the weekend off at a high tempo."
The next day, SRJC matches up against Cal State Fullerton for back-to-back 9 p.m. games. Fullerton took the last match between the two-- a 6-5 win in 2014 that the Polar Bears almost ruined.
However, Fullerton doesn't seem like the same squad SRJC faced last year. It currently has a 5-11-1 overall record, scoring 54 goals to opponents' 86. The team's power play (12.2 percent) and penalty kill (78.5 percent) are less successful than SRJC's (18.9 percent, 83.5 percent, respectively), but its penalty count is near equal.
Despite these numbers, Fullerton is coming off an 8-4 win over Chapman University Dec.12; which the Polar Bears aren't taking lightly.
"Fullerton is a very fast squad, with high skill, so we're going to need to come at them hard, with a full game," said Jackson Waldron, who is only one of two returning players who has scored against Fullerton. "We've got new line pairings and combinations that we are still getting used to, but we have to ultimately execute our game plan and be rested and ready to play."
There's obvious pressure on these games for the entire team, as it counts down the days in the regular season. SRJC is hoping to go 3-0 on its final road trip, as it fell 2-1 in both the Boise Showcase in October and the last LA trip in November. Part of that lies on handling the last two games against Fullerton.
"We've got to go in, see how they are and adjust from there. Fullerton has a nice rink and gets a good handful of fans there. It'll be a fun test for us," said head coach Blake Johnson. "We didn't have a good first game against San Diego in the back-to-back [first road trip], so hopefully we can come out swinging in this first game and go for the sweep the next day."