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.”
Dominic Jones looked more as if he was trying out for Cirque Du Solei than goaltending Jan. 23, pulling off acrobatic moves in the net to propel the SRJC Hockey team to a 5-2 win over Boise State University. The victory snapped Division II Boise State’s 20-game win streak, saddling the No.4 ranked squad with its second loss.
Playing at Snoopy’s Home Ice, SRJC expected an intense 60-minute battle. But players knew what was on the line and confident the retooled roster would put up a good fight.
And fight they did.
From puck drop it was evident both teams wanted to prove who was boss. A couple of cheap shots put SRJC on the power play often in the first period, but the team’s only goal was by Josiah Nikkel at even strength. The impressive shot by the Polar Bear’s Alternate Captain was only outshined by the SRJC defense, as it held Boise State scoreless while shifting to cover the loss of Andreas Rahm who left a few minutes in with a dislocated shoulder.
Nikkel was back at it in the second period, burying a shot at 18:59 for a 2-0 lead. The teams scrambled around a few misguided penalties, neither giving the other a true advantage. Then new skater Nick Harris made the most of an ending penalty kill, scoring off a pass from Eric Zagacki for his first official point.
“Nik [Nisja] came out of the box and I got this pass, and just wanted to get a shot off. I was very fortunate to get a goal,” he said. Harris was happy about his second game play after taking three penalties against Stanford University Jan. 17.
“I’m really excited to play full contact hockey again, and was more excited to hit people than focus on the actual game of hockey last time,” Harris stressed. “But I feel more grounded now. After practicing another time with the team, I’ve settled a bit and feel really good about being able to positively contribute to the team.”
Harris’ goal provided a nice 3-0 lead to enter the third period and SRJC didn’t waste time increasing its score. Josh Greenwell smacked in a rebounded puck from Matt Katicich out the gate, and Stephen Wolmarans put the Polar Bears up 5-0 ten minutes later.
Jones’ shutout looked near complete as the minutes ran down. However, Boise State pressed hard on two shifts by their second line, denying the Polar Bear goalie the prize by stealing two goals to end the game. Still, SRJC took the win and Boise State skated away with a disheartening defeat.
Jones saved 19 of 21 shots on goal, as SRJC barreled 41 shots at Boise State. SRJC’s starting forwards- Nikkel, Greenwell and Wolmarans- dominated the offense. Both Nikkel and Greenwell upped their team-leading point totals, with Nikkel at 67 points (33 goals, 24 assists) and Greenwell with 32 pts (17 goals, 15 assists).
“I’ve got to give it to the coaches for giving me the opportunity to go out there and try to contribute with my teammates,” Greenwell said, of his rookie-leading points total. “I’m just trying to play my game the way I always have. I can’t put too much pressure on myself, and luckily things have bounced in my favor. I’ve been paired with the best players on the team and it has boosted my game so much.”
SRJC will spend the next weekend on the road, taking on UC Davis at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 30, then San Francisco State University at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 31. UC Davis will be the most challenging, with the season series notched at one game apiece. This game will play a huge factor in the next round of ACHA rankings, and is the last between the two before the PCHA Tournament in February.
“They have some strength in the middle, and Vacaville is kind of a bogey rink for us. We like to complain about the refs and what goes wrong, but we can’t lay it all on that,” Wolmarans said. “We need to set the tone; we understand what needs to be done. Not just in this game, but in the PCHA, to win the cup and bring it back to us for a third-straight year. That is what is going to permeate through our locker room and we’ll bring our A game next week.”
Tonight and Saturday's Santa Rosa Junior College Ice hockey game vs University of Nevada, Las Vegas has been cancelled due to undisclosed reasons from University of Nevada, Las Vegas management team.
On a three-game win streak, SRJC looked for the weekend sweep to jump the Polar Bears in the rankings as they continue to push to make an appearance in the regional tournament. The Polar Bears upset a largely favored Boise State University DII last night at Snoopy's Home Ice snapping Boise State's 20 game win streak.
The SRJC Hockey team apologizes for any inconvenience this causes to their fans plans this weekend. The SRJC Ice Hockey team will return to Snoopy's Home Ice on February 7, 2015 when they host San Jose State University in the final scheduled home game of the season.
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.”
The Santa Rosa Junior College Hockey team may be busy this season working hard to return to postseason play, but that doesn’t mean the Polar Bears have forgotten what is most important this time of year.
Throughout the holiday season, players and staff volunteered numerous places around Sonoma County to show continued appreciation to their gracious and supportive community. The Polar Bears started volunteering shortly after Thanksgiving and continued each week until Christmas, helping several different organizations.
SRJC kicked off the team’s month of giving back by ringing bells for donations for The Salvation Army. Five members of the team volunteered consecutive weekends, including the day of the Polar Bear’s final home match Dec. 6. The donations raised from ringing bells help support The Salvation Army’s efforts to feed the hungry, house the homeless and free people from addiction.
Inspired by the team’s Thanksgiving food drive in early November, several staff members assisted with various community drives benefitting the Redwood Empire Food Bank and SF-Marin Food Bank. They also shopped for presents to donate to the Forestville Fire Station’s Toys for Tots.
As it got closer to the Christmas holiday, the entire team volunteered with the Sonoma County’s Secret Santa Program. A partnership effort of the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, the Secret Santa Program provides holiday gifts for families in need. SRJC players spent three days wrapping numerous gifts for the program, getting into the holiday spirit and continuing the team’s long-standing tradition of giving back.
"Our players are all very fortunate to have the ability and resources to attend our great school and play hockey at this level,” said General Manager Tom Billeter, who volunteered as a bell ringer this season. “We use the holidays as a time to reflect on that fortune and ask all players to volunteer in the community during that time. We're delighted to say this is our fourth season of having 100 percent of our players volunteer during the holiday break; I'm very proud of our players for this."
While the team amplified its philanthropic efforts over the last month, SRJC dedicates a large part of its off-ice time to giving back each season. So far, in the first half of the 2014-15 campaign, the Polar Bears have hosted a Breast Cancer Awareness game, Military Appreciation night and held a canned food drive for Thanksgiving. In the past, SRJC has also hosted a Toys for Tots fundraiser and blood donation drive.
“It is great to be able to give back to the community, and help out as a team to show how much we appreciate what they do for us,” said defensemen Niklis Nisja. “We try to help out whenever we can, not just around the holidays. We are very fortunate to do what we do, and realize the difference we can make off the ice.”