Shortened bench. Stacked injuries. Shuffled lines.
These issues have plagued SRJC over the last month and played a big role as the team failed to garner a single win in a two-game series to open December against San Jose State University’s Division II team.
SRJC headed into competition Dec. 5 with a different looking lineup than previous games. Without leading scorers John Keshishian and Josh Greenwell for the game- and Alternate Captain Josiah Nikkel out for the first two minutes- head coach Mike Kovanis played three freshman forwards on the starting line against San Jose State.
Matt Katicich, Andrew Mason and Tommy Dennen were an interesting pairing in the regular starters’ absence, although the tag team of Mason and Katicich is one SRJC has seen before. The two first-year skaters usually hold down the wings on the third line, which has been shuffled around after the season-ending injury to center Jackson Waldron. Both skaters have produced nicely in 18 games and proved to be the difference against SJSU.
San Jose struck first with a rebounded goal off a sprawling Dominic Jones at the 17-minute mark of the first period; a minute later Stephen Wolmarans tied the score. Tensions grew as the period wore on, with neither team scoring for 11 minutes. In the remaining five minutes of the period, SJSU scored three goals, including one off a power play, and SRJC’s Katicich notched one with help from Blake Johnson.
SJSU held its 4-2 lead for most of second period, despite several shots on goal for both teams. Back-to-back five-minute advantages put SRJC on the power play for the remainder of the period. The team scored on the first chance as Mason put one in the net with a little less than four minutes to play.
Ultimately, the Polar Bears lost the match 5-3 but were optimistic about the Dec. 6 rematch.
“We came out slow in the first and didn’t have the team play that we needed, but we were very good in the second and third periods. We definitely picked it up- although we didn’t win the third,” said Eric Zagacki. “We need to pick it up tomorrow, go into it knowing we have to play hard all three periods. We can definitely come out with a W.”
The two teams met at Snoopy’s Home Ice for the Polar Bear’s last home game of 2014 the next day. It was scoreless well into the second period. Like the previous day, SJSU hit first but the Polar Bears weren’t far behind. Only minutes after San Jose scored, Johnson netted his own goal with an assist from Nikkel. It remained a 1-1 score until one minute remaining in the game.
With 42.3 seconds left on the clock, San Jose slide one past Jones for what looked like the winning goal. Then, with 1.1 seconds left in the game Nikkel found the back of the net to tie the score 2-2.
That goal sent the game to a five-minute overtime that saw no goal action. A nine-round shootout followed before finally someone was called the victor. SJSU took the match 3-2.
Despite losing both in regulation and in a shootout, there was a bright side to these games: the Polar Bear’s know what needs to be done going forward. Players understand the issues facing the team and how they can work around it.
“It’s definitely hard practicing once a week and showing up to games not knowing who’s going to be in the locker room or trying to put together a plan without knowing how many guys we have until that moment,” Mason said. “But if we can get a really solid group of guys to really commit for the second semester, to be there on time for all the games and practices, we can be that much better. It won’t be easy, but we can make it work.”
The Polar Bears look to end 2014 on a high note as they take on San Francisco State University at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in Oakland. SRJC has faced SFSU once this season, in an 18-0 home win in October.