The 2014-15 regular season came to a close Feb. 5-6, with the Polar Bears losing to one San Jose State University team a day before crushing another.
Players were confident as they took the ice against SJSU’s Division II team Feb. 5. The team better understood SJSU’s game strategy and knew what to expect after facing the team twice already this season.
SRJC came out strong in the first period, getting a quick 1-0 lead thanks to Josh Greenwell. SJSU tied the score five minutes later to end the period. Josiah Nikkel took back the lead on a power play to open the second, but it was again tied it up heading into the third period.
SJSU slide the puck past Dominic Jones for a 3-2 lead to open the third. The shot was just a right-place kind of goal; the team capitalized on the rebound after Jones deflected the initial shot. The goal ended up being the game winner.
“It’s definitely frustrating. It was a goal that we feel if it didn’t go in, we could have taken it,” Nikkel said. “The puck just got stuck right in the middle of the ice, where they could come in, pick it up and get a goal right away. It was a downer, but we played a great game. It could have went either way.”
Despite the eventual loss, SRJC looked poised throughout the game. In several instances this season when trailing, SRJC has faltered under the pressure— but that was not the case against SJSU. The team fought right until the very end, with the same intensity as it had in the first 40 minutes.
“There was never a point that we didn’t feel like we could take it,” said Stephen Wolmarans. “Coach [Mike Kovanis] came out and said ‘We are not here to panic. We’re not here to freak out.’ And I think that really settled with us.”
The next day, the Polar Bears returned to Snoopy’s Home Ice for their last home game of the season.
Nikkel kicked it off at 13:25 with his first goal, leading the way for five other Polar Bears to score in the period. At the end of the first 20 minutes, SRJC had a commanding 9-0 lead. Defensemen Colin Ridenour had an impressive first period, scoring a goal and three assists.
“Once you start flowing, it’s easy to keep going, I guess,” said Ridenour, who had two goals, four assists on the night. “I take my chances when I get them, but in the end, I’d rather save a goal than get a goal.”
SRJC dialed it down in the remaining two period: scoring two goals in the second and three in the third for a 14-2 win. SRJC’s backup goalie Jacob Pavsek shined through 60 minutes in net, saving 10-12 shots on goal.
“I thought I played alright. I only got a few shots that first period. Didn’t feel like I was all the way warmed up, so it was nice to get a few more shots in the second period,” Pavsek said. “Overall, it felt good to get back out there, play in front of the home crowd. It was awesome to hear all the fans cheering.”
Several players had multiple points, including Andrew Mason (3 goals, 1 assist), Nikkel (2 goals, 1 assist), Matt Katicich (1 goal, 2 assist), Wolmarans (2 goals, 3 assists) and Blake Johnson (2 goals, 2 assists).
The team ends the season with a 9-2 PCHA record and 17-8-3 overall ACHA record as it heads in the postseason.
“It [the win over SJSU] will prepare us to play San Jose State in Tahoe for the PCHA playoffs,” Katicich said. “Our goal going into the tournament is to come out with the PCHA Championship for the third-straight season.”
SRJC will face SJSU DIII in game one of the PCHA Tournament Feb. 14. The winner will move on to the championship game Feb. 15.