The struggles continued for the Gators hockey club after they dropped the home opener rematch Friday night with the San Jose State Spartans 12-0 at the Oakland Ice Center.
The defeat marked SF State’s third-straight loss to open the season, and despite playing perhaps its best hockey to date, the usual suspects did all the scoring for the Gators’ I-280 rivals and put the game out of reach early.
“San Jose’s talent definitely went up from when we played them last year,” said left winger Matt Gold, attributing the developed offensive strength to Zach McKeithan and Charles Tacchi.
Although the young Gators team looked clearly outmatched by more experienced SJSU and SRJC squads, their work with coaches Kevin Barlow and Ryan Papazian has begun to show on game nights.
“Breakouts — that has been a large focus on our game,” Gold said, and the Gators’ offensive fight this weekend confirmed their efforts.
SF State was able to shift off of its heels and push the puck through the neutral zone, as they did in the first several minutes of the opening frame when the Gators moved the puck with more ease than it had at any point in the early going of the season.
Unfortunately, the team’s ability to transition did not translate into goals — a problem Gold attributes to the team’s continued struggles with setting up in the offensive zone. For the Gators on Friday, rebounds found SJSU sticks and passes went inches wide far too often, which showed that sometimes, hockey comes down to puck luck.
“We’ve been focusing on the defensive zone, which is obviously much more important,” said Gold, whose team has been outscored 44-3 through its first three games.
While this rematch looked to be competitive early, the Gators could only patch SJSU’s floodgates for so long. McKeithan appears to be one of the most impressive talents that the Gators will face this year, and he didn’t take his foot off of the gas pedal despite the lopsided scoreboard.
“Coach (Kevin) Barlow’s quote for the game was ‘relax, namaste,’” Gold said. “Any time they scored, it was just ‘let them have it. Let’s try to get one back.’”
Barlow was unavailable for comment after the game.
That mindstate was particularly important because of the Gators’ quick turnaround. A clean game without fights, emotional flares or injuries meant the team saved its energy for one of the toughest turnarounds of the season: another game, less than 24 hours later against the UC Davis Aggies in Vacaville.