The Gators’ hockey season continued its downward spiral after suffering a 21-3 trouncing at the hands of the UC Davis Aggies in Oakland Friday night.
It was the team’s fifth-straight loss and the second blowout suffered at the hands of a strong Aggies squad in less than a week. A silver lining did make an appearance for the Gators, which finally broke its three-game scoreless streak with three goals against a tough defensive opponent, but ultimately the offense wasn’t nearly enough.
“I’m proud of the three goals, but clearly we have a lot to work on,” Head Coach Kevin Barlow said following the loss.
Center Jacob Graham delivered the Gators’ first two goals of the game on some nifty coast-to-coast drives and pretty finishes midway through the first period, and in the closing seconds of the same frame respectively. But the Aggies were vicious offensively, unloading ten goals on Gators goaltender Cillian Variot before the first 20 minutes were up.
By the time team captain Ben Karpovich scored the third goal of the game in the final minute of the game, UC Davis had piled on 21 goals. The Gators were playing for pride.
In what has become a bad habit for SF State, the team spent much of the game on its heels, exhausting itself defensively and struggling to break out of its own zone. Barlow echoed what he intimated following the team’s season opening loss to San Jose State by pointing to poor fundamentals as the team’s biggest deficit.
“Fundamental hockey — that’s lacking,” he said. “Stickhandling, shooting, passing … We need to learn the fundamentals more.”
The lopsided score didn’t seem to discourage The Gators, who for the first time this season got to play against a pretty large and raucous home crowd that didn’t dwindle or quiet down even when the game was clearly out of reach. The team’s fight seemed to be enough for its fan base, who roared when the team raised its sticks and took a bow following the postgame handshakes.
“We had a lot of friends show up,” said Team President Andrew Duenes. “We’ve also been tabling on campus and selling tickets.”
The crowd was energized early by what the coach called the scrappiest game of the season. Tempers flared often between two teams that clearly don’t like each other very much, and Duenes — one of the largest Gators by a long shot — was in the middle of the action.
“I like to hit and set the tone a bit,” Duenes said. “Last year, I was taking a lot of penalties … I try not to rack up the penalty minutes too much (anymore).”
But while Duenes avoided the penalty box by keeping his hits clean, the same couldn’t be said for some of his counterparts. The familiarity that comes along with seeing the same faces twice in six days probably had something to do with bodies being thrown around and gloves being dropped on more than a few occasions.
The second straight blowout loss may have fueled the Gators’ frustration as well.
“This is college hockey — you play to beat the team,” Barlow said when asked about UC Davis keeping its foot on the gas and blasting SF State with 11 goals in the second and third period alone. “21-3 could be a little excessive, but no, I don’t have a problem with it.”
The Gators may have a real shot at earning its first win of the season next Saturday, when they face off with another young team in the Stanford Cardinal.
“They’re struggling just like us,” Duenes said. “We just need to take it to them just like we did with (Santa Rosa Junior College) and (UC Davis). We need to play smart hockey.”