Photo by: Christina Wigs
The Polar Bears had a great finish to their final road trip of the 2015-16 season this past weekend, with three hat tricks and a near-perfect penalty kill. But nothing was greater than their display of discipline and sportsmanship against a team that refused to play under pressure.
The team racked up 87 penalty minutes, with five game disqualifications and a game misconduct. One player alone was marked for four DQ's including fighting, kicking, continuing to fight and punching an official.
But while Cal State was busy burying itself, SRJC put on a show.
Captain Josiah Nikkel scored a power play goal with three minutes expired in the first period. Two goals by Stephen Wolmarans and Max Brownlee, and Nikkel's second of the night, gave SRJC a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.
As Brownlee added his second goal and Nikkel completed the hat trick in the second period, veteran goaltender Jacob Pavsek shutdown his end of the ice.
Pavsek limited the Titans to four shots in the first period and eight in the second.
"I felt pretty focused out there. I knew I was getting the start and had to stay in the game. They were going to come out pretty chippy so I made sure I didn't let it get to me. I kept my head in the game and kept on the puck the whole time," he said.
There is no doubt Pavsek and the Polar Bears would have shutdown Cal State in the third period, but were robbed of the chance. The Titans, obviously frustrated and outmatched, refused to play the rest of the game after the second period ended. SRJC was declared the 6-0 winner after 40 minutes.
"That was probably one of the most bizarre and exciting games that I've ever been a part of. I've been playing for a long time and never seen a team quit like that," said Brownlee, who was denied the chance of a third goal with the forfeit. "It evokes a good amount of anger, a little bit of pity, and pride. Because you go in there and are beating a team by a lot, and then force them to quit? Well then, we've got to be doing something right."
SRJC did everything right in that final game, rebounding from the close loss it suffered the night before.
Even with freshman Larry Hansen scoring SRJC's first rookie hat trick of the season, the team just couldn't get over early mistakes. The Polar Bears lost 5-4 Jan.15, despite winning 19 face offs and not giving up a power play goal in five opportunities.
The team ended the weekend with a 2-1 record, splitting games with Cal State and taking a victory over College of the Canyons Jan. 14. That game saw a lot of production, including another three-game night for Nikkel.
"I just felt good... in all three games, despite not scoring a goal in the second game. I felt like I was doing a good job controlling the puck," Nikkel said. "We lost some guys for this semester, so I know I had to step up and score some goals."
The team pulled together a remarkable final road trip; a true testament to the hard work and dedication players have put into the organization.
"We had a lot of new guys this year and it took a while to gel as a team. Every trip we took the guys got to know each other better, but on this trip they became as close of a team that I've ever seen any SRJC team be," said head coach Blake Johnson. "It shows on the ice: everyone backs each other up; everyone wins and loses as a team. It's nice to see them all come together and how great they can be."