With every game left in the regular season a must-win, SRJC heads into a PCHA weekend series that could very well make or break its postseason chances.
Both an ACHA playoff invite and the No. 1 spot in February’s PCHA Tournament are on the line, as SRJC heads on the road to face UC Davis Jan. 30 and San Francisco State University Jan. 31
Without a doubt, Friday’s game against UC Davis will be the toughest. Each team has only one PCHA loss—defeats that came at the hands of each other. SRJC took the first game of the season 4-2 at Snoopy’s Home Ice in October, while UC Davis skated away with a 5-3 win at home a month later.
The Polar Bears have trouble staying out of the penalty box against UC Davis, totaling more than 18 penalties between the two matches. But penalty minutes isn’t what solely caused SRJC’s only league loss: ultimately the lack of team work and selfishness with the puck doomed the match.
However, SRJC is coming off two important wins that focused on the team playing as a cohesive unit, instead of individual skaters. This will be key if SRJC wants to beat its PCHA rival.
“If we play our team game, we’ll do just fine. If you go out there and try to score goals, the best way to do it is to play as a full team. You have more options when you know guys are out there backing you up,” said Eric Zagacki, who was one of three injured in the UC Davis road game. “Playing as a team obviously works, because we just handled Boise [State University] and Davis is not as good as Boise. If we go out there with the same intensity and team play that we did against Boise, then we’re not going to even have a close game against Davis; we’re going to work them.”
The next night, SRJC will face San Francisco State looking to sweep the season series. The Polar Bears scored two double-digit victories against SFSU in the first half. This game won’t be as intense as other matches, but SRJC must still work hard to come out with a win.
Since every game left will have a direct impact on the team’s final ACHA ranking, solid team wins are a must if SRJC hopes to jump back into the top 10. The Polar Bears fell to No. 12 in the third round announced Jan. 23, putting them just out of reach of a playoff spot.
“We have to win with an exclamation point. We have to really put the stamp on that we are a better team than anyone out there,” said Matt Katicich. “If we leave it up to chance, then we might not go to reggies [ACHA’s Regional Tournament]; and that is not an option. Like Blake [Johnson] said, ‘We control our destiny.’ If we play team hockey, we’ll be just fine.”