For the second consecutive year the SRJC Hockey team lost its first game of the New Year to Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association rival Santa Clara University. Despite a solid effort by its entire roster, SRJC fell 9-6 Jan. 15.
Playing with a new roster of only 11, including three new players getting their first SRJC ice time this season, there were plenty of encouraging, and head-scratching, moments.
John Zerbe got it started seven minutes in with his first goal of the year. New player Matt Sullivan followed, netting his first of the night just two minutes later.
“I was feeling good. The puck felt good on my stick. I had two good forwards up there helping me,” he said of each of his two goals. “We had numbers in front of their net and I got the opportunity to just separate myself from their D both times. It really was a complete team effort.”
Sullivan returns to SRJC for the first time since Fall 2013. After a quick recruitment by Alternate Captain David Lundgren, he said the enticement of playing Division II teams was too much to pass up.
With Zerbe and Sullivan’s quick goals, things looked promising. But SCU scored five consecutive goals off rookie Matthew Colgrove. Between bad positioning in the offensive zone and slow changing defense, SRJC couldn’t come together as time ran out.
Despite being down 5-2 after 20 minutes, SRJC kept calm and energized.
“We weren’t too upset or worried because we’ve been down more than three goals in a period before,” Lundgren said. “We just had to tighten up in our own zone, have our wingers in the D-man’s face. Once we started doing that we came back and made it 7-5. We were closing in but just ran out of time in the end.”
SCU put up two more in the second, including one on a power play. Freshman points leader Shawn Pabros gave SRJC its own goal on the man advantage minutes later. Sullivan’s second of the night happened just after and the Polar Bears pulled within two to enter the final period.
SRJC scored one more in the third but two off Colgrove and an empty-netter in the last 10 minutes sealed it.
In spite of the loss, the Polar Bears feel good about their play. SRJC realizes what it needs to work on— i.e. better defense within its own zone, better communication, better breakouts— but was impressed with how easily it came together and produce.
Lundgren led the charge with five assists, helping all but Travis LaBrucherie's third period goal. He now leads all active players with 26 points. Sullivan finished with two goals, two assists, while Armand OConner, Zerbe, Pabros had one goal. Carson Riley tallied three assists, with Larry Hansen and Anthony Giampaoli adding one.
The new players— Sullivan, OConner and Riley— were just the spark SRJC needed after losing most of its players. They totaled three goals, five assists. While OConner practiced with SRJC in the fall, the others joined SRJC just days before the match.
“It felt like we’ve been playing with them the entire semester,” said defensemen Alec Runge. “They gelled so quickly. There was no separation between us and them; it’s like they’ve been with us the whole time.”
Up next is a 9:30 a.m. away game Jan. 22 against Western Washington University. SRJC was supposed to attend the San Jose State University showcase Jan. 20-22, but now plays just one game this weekend.
SRJC expects to add one more player — former forward/defensemen Patrick Parnell— bringing the roster to 11 position players, one goaltender. Despite lacking depth, the Polar Bears feel really good about their remaining six games.
“After the Santa Clara game everyone was in a positive attitude,” Lundgren said. “As long as we stay positive and play as a unit we’ll be just fine going forward.”