SRJC Hockey team “Bears Down” to upset Cal

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SRJC Hockey team “Bears Down” to upset Cal

Nadav Soroker

SRJC Polar Bear player breaks out of a tight group to bring the puck down the ice.

Keshia Knight, Business Manager

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If the SRJC hockey team’s intense 10-7 win over UC Berkeley Sept. 14 is any indiction of what’s to come, then Polar Bear fans are in for a real treat this season.

It only took SRJC 24 seconds before forward Alexi Kulikouskiy drove a puck into the net to put the Polar Bears up 1-0, and from that moment it was a heated battle on both sides of the ice. With almost every whistle, players were at each other’s throats, neither backing down from the challenge.

After a quick 2-0 SRJC lead, Cal scored its first goal and a SRJC player was thrown in the penalty box. But the Polar Bears were not impressed with Cal’s first attempt at a power play; almost immediately the puck streaked across the net for an SRJC goal. Assisted by forward John Hutton, Kulikouskiy earned his second goal of the night and put the Polar Bears back up by two.

The goal-for-goal volley would continue into the second period until Cal freshman Theo Haboucha tied it up at five goals apiece. A thunderous  “Let’s go JC!” chant echoed through the rink encouraging SRJC to re-take the lead and it was a Polar Bear rookie who answered the call. Defenseman Chris Whitten barreled a shot past the Cal goaltender to score his first goal in a Polar Bears uniform and put SRJC up 6-5.

“Scoring the goal took some pressure off, being that it’s the first game with a new team, ” Whitten said. “It was a good feeling contributing to the team to get the win.”

SRJC would keep Cal at bay, despite the Golden Bears scoring twice off Jacob Pavsek in the third period. But the Polar Bears stayed resilient to the very end, adding on four more goals, including an impressive shot by Hutton with 49 seconds left on the clock.

Several players contributed to the win, with goals by Kulikouskiy (3), Hutton (2 goals, 2 assists) and Spencer Wright (2). Whitten– along with Josiah Nikkel and Don Coyle–each had one goal in their Polar Bear debut.

Even with a seven-month absence from the ice, the Polar Bears looked sharp in the team’s first match. But with several new players, including two freshman goalies (Pavsek and Pat Vrba), SRJC looks to improve before the next two games coming up against Sacramento State University.

“Our first game against Cal was a wake-up call, but our team came together to pull off the win. We still have lots of adjustments to make,” Hutton noted. “We need to work on being more disciplined to not get penalties and work on man to man coverage in our defensive zones.”

After such an exciting first victory, there is no doubt Snoopy’s Home Ice will be packed as SRJC takes on Sac State at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 22. Hutton says, Sac State is one of SRJC’s biggest opponents and the match is usually one of the best home games of the year.

Prior to the game, Polar Bears sponsor, Westside Grill, will host a dine and donate event benefiting the team. Located at 3082 Marlow Rd. in Santa Rosa, Westside Grill will donate 20 percent of each diner’s bill to the Polar Bears.

For more information, please visit www.santarosahockey.com

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