Spartan Crash Course: Getting things started with a big win in front of a big crowd

Courtesy of Austin Hill

San Jose State has a tough test ahead of them when they face Utah tonight. But in the Spartans' first game of the year, things went about as well as they could have hoped - putting up a dominant performance in a 10-2 victory over the USC Trojans.

Kyle Dutra got the Spartans going in the 2012-2013 season when he scored the first goal of the season. It was a beautiful goal on a defensive breakdown by USC about two minutes in to the game. Line-mates Sam Cimino and Arthur Arias drew the Trojan defense to the near boards, leaving Dutra wide open for a huge one-timer a few feet in front of goaltender Jake Porter.

And the Spartans did not look back. Not even defenseman Salvatore Barranco, who got off the schneid with a weird, behind-the-back goal in the first period. Barranco pounced on a turnover in the neutral zone and led the attack. He went wide around the defender, blew a tire, and directed the puck into the net as he was falling. "He got a high-stick on me and I wanted to draw the call and kind of... dove a little bit," said Barranco, with a smile. "But then I didn't even see it go in. I just kind of swung at it on my back and it happened to go in."

San Jose State went in to the first intermission with a 2-0 lead, giving the fans in attendance as much of a thrill as the players got from playing in front of a packed arena. "I'd give those first two goals to the crowd," said head coach Mike Watson. "They really had our guys going. It was fun to see them a little nervous when they saw the big group, but they definitely fed off the noise."

The crowd was electric all night long. Along with the die-hards, there was certainly an influx of new, hockey-starved fans. Not only was Sharks Ice filled to capacity, but some fans even had to be turned away. Regardless of whether or not they were Spartan fans before that night, they supported the team as if they were there all along.

"As soon as we started warm-ups, I could see the energy that my team had. And the fans that all came out to support really helped me get my head in the game," said starting goaltender Mario Retana. Retana stopped all 10 shots he faced before he was swapped out to give back-up Bryan Toma some work.

The Spartans took all the energy they gained from the crowd and scored 8 more goals in the game. That included a filthy toe-drag by Sam Cimino to put the Spartans in the double-digits. All together, 13 different Spartans had points in the game. The newcomers played a big role, too. Freshman D Christian Rendino had 2 goals and an assist, while winger Arthur Arias had 4 assists in his debut.

Not to say everything went perfectly. SJSU got into some penalty trouble and gave up two power-play goals to the Trojans' Ryan Kucinski. Coach Watson said "I kind of look at those as coaching goals because it's my job to keep them focused for the full game, not just twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there." But it won't happen again, said Watson.

Despite giving up 10 goals in the game, it's actually hard to fault USC goaltender Jake Porter. Porter still had an .878 save percentage, but San Jose State seemingly spent the entire night with the puck. The Spartans put up a ridiculous 82 shots to USC's 19.

It was a great game for the Spartans, but they'll have a tougher challenge this week when the University of Utah Skatin' Utes come to town. Utah is currently 3-1 after a big win over BYU, and a split with an improved Weber State squad. The Utes then dismantled Cal-Berkeley 13-2 in a game that didn't end until about 3 am Friday morning.

The Spartans won't take Utah lightly. After all, this is the team that knocked San Jose State out of the postseason. "I think last year, they out-skated us and they beat us to a lot of loose pucks. But we're going to be fresh," said Sal Barranco. Very different circumstances compared to the last time these teams met, and Coach Watson wants to make sure this match-up ends differently as well. "We don't really look at who we're playing, they should be looking at who they're playing," said Watson. "I think Utah has to worry about us."

The Spartans look for redemption as they face the Skatin' Utes of Utah tonight at 7:30 pm from Sharks Ice. Tickets are available at the door. Make sure you show up on time, because judging by last week, it will sell out. For anyone who can't make the game, streaming video will be presented online by Black Dog Enterprises.

Fight on, Spartans!
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