With a different looking lineup than the first half and only two practices on the books, there was bound to be a few struggles in the Polar Bear’s first game of 2015. Luckily, in its Jan. 17 match against Stanford University, SRJC’s troubles only lasted the first period.
The team looked shaky as it figured out its new parts in the first minutes of the game. Stanford struck first with a goal off Dominic Jones, before the Polar Bears rebounded with three straight goals. Still, there was something off about SRJC and Stanford took advantage. By the end of the first period, the score was tied 3-3.
It was a complete 180 in last 40 minutes of the game, as Jones silenced the opposition and SRJC broke out. Josiah Nikkel got it started off a feed from Stephen Wolmarans, scoring his first of four goals on the night. Matt Katicich followed; tipping in Andreas Rahm’s shot from the blue line. New skater David Lundgren added a shorthanded goal shortly after for his first official point as a Polar Bear and a 6-3 lead.
“It was exciting and felt good to get out there and hit some people. I really just wanna contribute to the team any way I can,” said Lundgren, who has been practicing with the team for several months. “I got some lucky bounces in front of the net and happened to poke them in. It felt good; I was just happy that we won.”
Stanford forced several penalties in the remaining time, but SRJC squashed any opportunity and continued to rack up goals. By the end of the game it was 14-3, SRJC.
Four players had multiple goals— Nikkel (4), Katicich (3), Lundgren (2) and Josh Greenwell (2) — while Blake Johnson, Wolmarans and Niklis Nisja each added one.
Nisja’s goal was especially worthwhile since not only was it his first official point, but it came in his first game since having reconstructive knee surgery in September. The rookie defensemen wasn’t expected back this season, but returned to the ice in record time.
“Obviously, I was focusing on my knee and finding my legs tonight,” he said. “The goal was great but all the credit goes to my teammates who made it happen; I just finished it.”
Five new players— Lundgren, Nisja, Nick Harris, Carson Riley and Shane Butulia— made their season debuts against Stanford. Each contributed effectively in their first game.
While the team skated away with a win, it’s hard not to focus on the first period struggles and how it will affect the Polar Bear’s upcoming three-game home stand. SRJC won’t have much time to work out the kinks before it takes on Boise State University (Thurs., Jan. 22) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Fri./Sat., Jan 23-24) at Snoopy’s Home Ice. This is the first time SRJC will face UNLV and the first game against Boise State since the 2012-13 season.
Boise State is a Division II team and the biggest competitor the Polar Bears will face in the second half of the regular season. Players know how hard these games will be and what’s at stake.
“This weekend is going to be one of our toughest. We have to be ready; and we have to be fast the whole game,” Nikkel said. “We have to keep up with these teams. They are going to be some of the hardest we play. With new guys who haven't played much it’s going to be hard, but anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”