Second-year head coach Blake Johnson made it well known when the Polar Bears began training camp in August that no player was guaranteed a spot on his team. He put all SRJC skaters, returning and new, through an intense five-week audition to determine who would suit up for the 2016-17 season.
Now, just days away from the Santa Rosa Junior College Hockey team’s first game of the year, Johnson has officially announced his roster for the team’s inaugural Division II campaign.
A total of 22 players will put on the SRJC jersey, including 17 returning skaters and five freshmen.
Presumed captain Josiah Nikkel leads a talented group of forwards that include last year’s standouts Max Brownlee and Evan Hastings. Nikkel is in his last year with the Polar Bears, and ranks first on SRJC’s all-time points leader list with 121 goals and 128 assists.
Joining him is fan favorite John Keshishian, Matt Katicich, Jackson Waldron, Tommy Dennen, Travis LaBrucherie and John Zerbe. All forwards on this year’s team have at least one SRJC season under their belt.
2016 will also see the return of last year’s breakout player, Lane Beliveau. After starting the 2015-16 season as one of SRJC’s best freshman players, Beliveau had season-ending hip surgery in December 2015. SRJC did not expect Beliveau to return this fast, if at all, to the team.
Colin Ridenour and Tim Buchter anchor the Polar Bears’ blue line, providing much needed veteran experience to the relatively green defense. Former forward Alec Runge joins them, along with rookies Anthony Giampaoli, Derek Osborne and Shawn Pabros.
SRJC has a few “switch hitters” on this year’s roster — including returning players David Lundgren and Larry Hansen— who could potentially change positions over the course of the season. These players are currently listed as forwards, but have practiced in both positions. They, along with Nikkel and Waldron, could all spend some time as D-men.
Johnson gets his pick of goaltenders this season with veteran Jacob Pavsek returning for a final year and Miles Kellam suiting up a third time. Two new goaltenders join the ranks, including 23-year-old former Glacier Nationals juniors player Steven Morten, and former Santa Rosa Flyer Matthew Colgrove. Each had impressive preseasons, and will definitely give both returning netminders a run for their money.
SRJC’s game roster may only house 20 players each match — two less positions players than the maximum number allowed (22 position players, two goalies)— but Johnson has the option to run four lines if needed. Each line has strong, experienced centers, coupled with the rotating three sets of D-partners.
While Johnson has not named any official lines or defensive partnerships, he’s confident heading into SRJC’s first games with the level of talent of his roster combined.
“This year we won’t have loads of healthy scratches each game, but our top 3 forwards lines and top 2 d pairing are as strong as we have ever had,” he said. “We are fortunate enough to have a large number of returning players this year, which allows me to mix and match lines to find the right combination that will