Polar Bears lose home opener to Gonzaga 6-2 after five straight goals


Sean Young

The Santa Rosa Junior College Polar Bears ice hockey team looks to bounce back after a less-than ideal 2021 season.

Sean Young, Editor-in-Chief

After a season filled with cancellations, COVID hurdles and an unprecedented number of injuries, the Santa Rosa Junior College Polar Bears ice hockey team opened at home to much fanfare against the Gonzaga University Bulldogs, who ultimately spoiled their home opener.

Last year the Polar Bears, led by first-year captain Angus Brodeur, went into the second half of their season with a 9-2-1 record, but finished 12-7-1 due to injuries that decimated the bench.

“The main goal is to win some games and have a healthy season,” said returning assistant captain Jonah Petrus. “We have a lot of players this year, which will make it a lot easier.”
The team added 14 new Polar Bears including Claire Zerbe and Jahnyha Kofalk, the first pair of women on the team in several years.

The game started with tons of energy as both teams looked to establish their style of game. Momentum shifted back and forth during the first period as both Santa Rosa goaltender Alejandro Barajas and Gonzaga goaltender Duke Dawson had multiple saves.

Polar Bears rookie forward Brady Curroto nearly scored the first goal of the game on a breakaway.

With under a minute left in the first period, Gonzaga forward Colin Belstein scored the first goal of the game to put the Zags up 1-0.

The second period began with the Polar Bears looking to tie. The Polar Bears gained the momentum they were looking for when rookie forward Patrick Voors scored his first goal, stealing the puck from a Gonzaga defender with 17:11 remaining in the second period.

The penalties started to add up on both sides, with Gonzaga forward Lucas Gorda-Perez called for a cross check. Soon after, Polar Bear forward Toby Petrus raced up the ice, beating the Gonzaga defense and goaltender, scoring SRJC’s second goal. SRJC came out of the second period up 2-1 and looked ready to snuff out the competition.

The Polar Bears attack swarmed at the start of the third period, hoping to score another goal and clinch the win.

With 6:55 remaining, Bulldogs forward Colton Bowers scored to tie the game at two goals apiece, on the assist from forward Colin Belstein and Jackson Manlove.

Immediately following the goal, Polar Bears defenseman Zach Zweber snapped his stick against the goalpost in frustration. Referees assessed Zweber a 10-minute unsportsman conduct penalty, a two-minute minor slashing penalty and a game misconduct penalty which ejected him from the game. Zweber’s ejection shifted the momentum in Zags’ favor.

A minute later on the powerplay, Bowers scored again to put Gonzaga up by one. “The wheels fell off there [in the third period]. We had been holding some good defensive zone coverage for most of that game and started to just have some serious lapses,” SRJC coach Jackson Waldron said. “A lot of penalties there at the end put us down, which is hard to maintain a lead and score goals if you’re on the penalty kill.”

Gonzaga scored three more, including two shorthanded goals as the game winded down, beating the Polar Bears with a final score of 6-2.

Despite the loss, Waldron saw several bright spots “It’s a young team. It’s a very new team. So we got to see some guys and see how they performed and played under pressure,” he said.

Polar Bears rookie defenseman Kofalk also felt positive about her first game playing for SRJC. “It felt good. It felt like a family out there. Everyone has everyone else’s back and you just feel protected out there,” Kofalk said.

Waldron emphasized how thrilled he and his team were with a nearly full crowd in attendance for the home opener. “The fans here at Snoopy are unlike anything else on the whole west coast with any college hockey. We’re very lucky and fortunate to have them and so excited to have them back this year,” he said.

The Santa Rosa Polar Bears take the ice next against Santa Clara University at 8:00 p.m. Oct. 8 at Snoopy’s Home Ice.