Fifty-nine minutes and 55 seconds of SRJC’s match against Santa Clara University Oct. 11 was an aggressive, ugly battle without evidence of a clear victor. But for five seconds- the only seconds that mattered in the game- SRJC proved itself to be the true and rightful victors.
It’s no secret there’s bad blood between the two former PCHA opponents- after all, SRJC robbed Santa Clara of a league title last February in a heated forfeit. It was clear from puck drop this first season matchup was going to be intense.
The Polar Bears were slow out the gate, and early miscommunication looked like it’d sink them. But the team killed off two huge penalties to keep the game scoreless for most of the first period. Only a minor blemish with 51 second left in the frame put SRJC down 1-0.
Chris Whitten didn’t let Santa Clara get too comfortable, as he scored on a power play eight minutes into the second period. Santa Clara answered back, but SRJC wouldn’t back down. With help from Blake Johnson and Josiah Nikkel, Sam Davis found the back of the net to put the score at 2-2 to end the second.
Santa Clara took the lead back 22 seconds into the final period- a lead that again, didn’t last long. Steve Wolmarans scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway halfway through the period to give the Polar Bears another fighting chance. The game looked like it would go to overtime, until John Keshishian forced a charging penalty to put SRJC on the man advantage for the last two minutes. That penalty was the nail in Santa Clara’s coffin as Chris Whitten scored on the power play with five seconds left on the clock for a 4-3 win.
“The winning goal was pretty lucky for me,” Whitten said. “Josiah [Nikkel] and Blake [Johnson] moved the puck on the blue line, Blake fed the pass down to me behind the goal and we had numbers in front of the net. There were a couple big saves by their [Santa Clara’s] goalie and the puck just slid over to me from [Josh] Greenwell. It was one of those right place, right time goals.”
With Santa Clara University no longer a member of the PCHA, the Polar Bears will only face the team once more this season- in game one of SRJC’s Wine Country Collegiate Classic Nov. 6-8. After the sting of four consecutive losses, the Polar Bears expect Santa Clara to come out swinging.
The Polar Bears will take on the Division III team of San Jose State University at 10 p.m. Oct. 18 at Sharks Ice in Fremont, Calif. The team will head back home Oct. 24-25 for a weekend series against PCHA rival UC Davis and Cal Lutheran University. Both games will start at 8:30 p.m. at Snoopy’s Home Ice.