Dominic Jones looked more as if he was trying out for Cirque Du Solei than goaltending Jan. 23, pulling off acrobatic moves in the net to propel the SRJC Hockey team to a 5-2 win over Boise State University. The victory snapped Division II Boise State’s 20-game win streak, saddling the No.4 ranked squad with its second loss.
Playing at Snoopy’s Home Ice, SRJC expected an intense 60-minute battle. But players knew what was on the line and confident the retooled roster would put up a good fight.
And fight they did.
From puck drop it was evident both teams wanted to prove who was boss. A couple of cheap shots put SRJC on the power play often in the first period, but the team’s only goal was by Josiah Nikkel at even strength. The impressive shot by the Polar Bear’s Alternate Captain was only outshined by the SRJC defense, as it held Boise State scoreless while shifting to cover the loss of Andreas Rahm who left a few minutes in with a dislocated shoulder.
Nikkel was back at it in the second period, burying a shot at 18:59 for a 2-0 lead. The teams scrambled around a few misguided penalties, neither giving the other a true advantage. Then new skater Nick Harris made the most of an ending penalty kill, scoring off a pass from Eric Zagacki for his first official point.
“Nik [Nisja] came out of the box and I got this pass, and just wanted to get a shot off. I was very fortunate to get a goal,” he said. Harris was happy about his second game play after taking three penalties against Stanford University Jan. 17.
“I’m really excited to play full contact hockey again, and was more excited to hit people than focus on the actual game of hockey last time,” Harris stressed. “But I feel more grounded now. After practicing another time with the team, I’ve settled a bit and feel really good about being able to positively contribute to the team.”
Harris’ goal provided a nice 3-0 lead to enter the third period and SRJC didn’t waste time increasing its score. Josh Greenwell smacked in a rebounded puck from Matt Katicich out the gate, and Stephen Wolmarans put the Polar Bears up 5-0 ten minutes later.
Jones’ shutout looked near complete as the minutes ran down. However, Boise State pressed hard on two shifts by their second line, denying the Polar Bear goalie the prize by stealing two goals to end the game. Still, SRJC took the win and Boise State skated away with a disheartening defeat.
Jones saved 19 of 21 shots on goal, as SRJC barreled 41 shots at Boise State. SRJC’s starting forwards- Nikkel, Greenwell and Wolmarans- dominated the offense. Both Nikkel and Greenwell upped their team-leading point totals, with Nikkel at 67 points (33 goals, 24 assists) and Greenwell with 32 pts (17 goals, 15 assists).
“I’ve got to give it to the coaches for giving me the opportunity to go out there and try to contribute with my teammates,” Greenwell said, of his rookie-leading points total. “I’m just trying to play my game the way I always have. I can’t put too much pressure on myself, and luckily things have bounced in my favor. I’ve been paired with the best players on the team and it has boosted my game so much.”
SRJC will spend the next weekend on the road, taking on UC Davis at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 30, then San Francisco State University at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 31. UC Davis will be the most challenging, with the season series notched at one game apiece. This game will play a huge factor in the next round of ACHA rankings, and is the last between the two before the PCHA Tournament in February.
“They have some strength in the middle, and Vacaville is kind of a bogey rink for us. We like to complain about the refs and what goes wrong, but we can’t lay it all on that,” Wolmarans said. “We need to set the tone; we understand what needs to be done. Not just in this game, but in the PCHA, to win the cup and bring it back to us for a third-straight year. That is what is going to permeate through our locker room and we’ll bring our A game next week.”