SF State’s best hope at skating to its first win of the season got derailed Saturday night, as the team fell to 0-6 following a 21-5 blowout win for the Stanford Cardinal at Nazareth Ice Oasis in Redwood City.
Despite drawing first blood with a power play goal from defenseman Matt Gault just two minutes into the game, and going blow-for-blow with what looked to be the Gators’ most even competition to date, SF State failed to hang on to the solid fundamental play that they hopped over the boards with to open up the evening.
“I was pretty ecstatic, honestly,” Gault, a long-time forward now playing on the blue line, said of his first goal this year. “Switching to defense — it’s been different, but I think I’m starting to find my scoring touch again.”
The positive vibes from Gault’s goal didn’t last long, though. Stanford answered quickly, and although the Gators regained the lead thanks to another debut goal from Alternate Captain Ryan Murnane, SF State couldn’t stem the tide for much longer.
The Cardinal poured five straight goals on Gators’ netminder Cillian Variot, and even after forward Emily Wilburn answered, notching her first score of the season at the 3:47 mark of the first, Stanford came right back with a tally of their own just 40 seconds later.
The damage had been done, as the 6-3 first intermission score was the closest the game would be.
“It’s tough. We ran into some trouble in the defensive zone with our coverage down low,” Gault said. “When you get a couple goals scored on you, you can either dig deep and fight or get down on yourself.”
The latter looked to be the direction SF State took, and though the team had plenty to be proud of — scoring first, playing competitively and getting its highest goal total to date — Head Coach Kevin Barlow saw many things that needed to be improved upon.
“I thought we had positional problems again, and maybe some conditioning problems again,” Barlow said following the loss. “In the beginning of the game we had them matched, but there were some mental breakdowns.”
Barlow trotted out a new look to his hockey team for the first time since setting his lines early in the season. The top line, centered by Jacob Graham and winged by Michael Parra and Corey Bemis, who scored two goals, stayed intact. However, it was alterations to the second line that seemed to give the Gators a spark.
Emily Wilburn, the every-game second line center, skated with Jonathan Stolan and newcomer Ryan Murnane, who had been playing defense in the previous five games. The new line contributed two goals to the team’s total Saturday, and Murnane drew the penalty that led to Gault’s goal that opened up the scoring.
But Barlow started switching things up again after Stanford went on a third period tear, ripping off four goals on the Gators in a span of two minutes.
“When you have lines that aren’t working, it’s best to adapt,” Barlow said. “We moved some guys up, we moved some guys back. We’re trying anything and everything.”
Barlow called the third period a complete reversal of what he had become accustomed to seeing from his team. Although they’ve typically played their best hockey in the final frame, Saturday night’s third period signified perhaps the team’s worst performance yet.
“I think people were giving up,” Barlow said. “It looked like it. It turned into a pickup hockey game.”
Team President Andrew Duenes said the dressing room remained upbeat in spite of the loss, citing several different keys for this young hockey team to be proud of, even in defeat.
“A lot of people were saying ‘look at the positives’,” Duenes said. “We scored first, and that’s showing that we are improving. We just have a lot of work to do.”