Penalties, breakdowns and injuries left a mark on the SF State Gators’ 14-3 season-opening loss to the SJSU Spartans at Sharks Ice in Fremont Saturday night.
“It was a bad beat,” Coach Kevin Barlow said following the game. “We’re a new team. We’ve only had four solid practices, so there’s only so much you can work on.”
Barlow pointed to several early trips to the penalty box as a big reason why they fell behind early and never crawled back into the game. By the 7:30 mark of the first period, the Spartans had already enjoyed two power plays thanks to roughing and high sticking penalties by the Gators.
SJSU capitalized on both of those early advantages, getting goals from forwards Zach Mckeithan and Charles Tacchi, along with three more from the pair before the period was up. Mckeithan had a natural hat trick by the close of the first, and finished with five goals and an assist on the night. Tacchi finished with four goals after scoring two more in the second.
“A lot of the goals they scored on us were on the (penalty kill),” Coach Ryan Papazian said. Both Papazian and Barlow said that the early penalties, along with a pulled hamstring for Captain Ben Karpovich, jumbled SF State’s line settings and and put the team on its heels.
“Our matchups were pretty bad,” Barlow said. “They took advantage of our bench management to be honest.”
Barlow and Papazian called a timeout following the Spartans’ ninth unanswered goal at the 9:31 mark of the second period. The team met at the away bench for a discussion followed by a spirited chant, and the Gators began to fight back.
SF State’s Jacob Graham notched the team’s first goal of the season following a Spartans two-minute minor for having too many men on the ice, and Ryan Murnane followed it up with a point shot off of the faceoff just four minutes later.
The Gators returned from the dressing room for the third period repeating the mantra of “win the period,” but another setback changed the tone of the game. SF State forward Paul Klein emerged from what was a rather routine collision in a very physical game unable to put pressure on his left leg. Teammates groaned and shouted for someone to call paramedics as he pulled his kneepad down to expose a deep, open gash just above his knee cap.
“It’s not the first time I’ve seen something like that, but it’s always a little scary,” Murnane said. “It’s still hard to see a friend like that.”
The game held up as teammates and coaches helped Klein out to the lobby. Sharks Ice faculty assisted Klein while he waited for paramedics.
All the while, Klein remained alert, joking about the fact that he holds the title of Safety Officer for the Gators.
“What was ironic about that was, it was seconds after he said ‘no injuries, boys!,’” Barlow said. “He took it like a champ.”
The game continued after a brief injury timeout, and the Gators scored their third and final goal as the paramedics were arriving. The laceration required some stitches and staples, but doctors say he’ll be available to play again in two weeks.
During the process, Klein remained in good spirits. He asked the paramedics if any of them had ever played hockey before, and when they shook their heads no, followed up by asking, “Does this make you want to?”
Before strapping Klein to a gurney and trucking him to Washington Hospital in Fremont, one of the paramedics asked, “Does anything else hurt?”
Klein responded, “Just my pride.”