After the first ranking, the San Jose State Spartans found themselves ranked #5 in the ACHA West. It looks like a fair ranking for SJSU at this point. Although they've had some big victories, the team has dropped a few games early on that they should have won if they wanted to be ranked much higher.
"I think that's a pretty good position to be in right now," said forward Ian Seidl. "And we still have plenty of games to move forward and move into the top two." Utah State is a relatively undisputed #1 at this point, but with a strong win or two, the Spartans could find themselves in the conversation with the other teams in front of them - Colorado State, Northern Arizona and Arizona State.
The Spartans had a chance to improve their standing with two games against the #12 Loyola Marymount University Lions. Unfortunately for San Jose State, they didn't start off too well. In the first game last Friday, LMU's defense found a way to stifle the Spartan offense. "We played a lot slower than we were supposed to," said forward Christian DeJesus.
"It was a bit of a ping pong rally for a while," said head coach Matt Adams. "It seemed like we were stuck playing blueline to blueline."Loyola did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone, and the Spartans didn't seem to have enough jump to get around the Lions and get the offense going.
After nearly forty minutes of watching the puck get chipped back and forth, LMU scored in the final minute to take a 2-1 lead to the second intermission. Even after that goal, the Spartans still couldn't get going in the third. A bad turnover behind the net gave the Lions a 3-1 lead in the third. The Spartans did score on the power play once in the third, but also let up an empty netter to fall 4-2.
"Sometimes, I don't know what it is with our team," said Seidl. Against some teams that the Spartans expect to beat, "we go into the game with a whole different mindset. Everyone's just really relaxed, laid back, not on the gas at all. We wait for them, we react to them. And when we do that, we just play into their game and, as you can see, it doesn't work." By the time the Spartans get their act together, it's too late.
On the brighter side of things, SJSU took all the frustration from the first loss and channeled it into a dominant performance on Saturday night. The Spartans played two nearly flawless periods and were leading 6-0 at one point, led by a hat trick from Sam Cimino and 2 goals by Christian DeJesus.
DeJesus has been a nice addition to the team this year. He's a speedy, two-way winger that has found himself shuffled between the second and third lines. "As long as I'm out there, and I can help out where ever I can - bouncing around, I rerally don't mind that too much," said DeJesus. The Spartan forward was one of the leading scorers for SJSU D3 last season, and has shown some good scoring touch this year as well with 4 goals and 7 assists in 11 games.
Back to the game, the Spartans were able to hold on for the 6-2 win. "The first night, we were more of a welcoming committee," said assistant coach Aaron Mullagh. But in the second game, San Jose State played much faster, harder, and more physical. "They got in hard, they got in gritty, and that really frustrated the opponent," said Mullagh. "When we play our game, there's not a lot of teams out here in our region that can really compete."
With the LMU games now behind them, the Spartans can look forward to a south bay showdown this weekend. Stanford and Santa Clara will come in Friday and Saturday, respectively, for the last two Spartan home games of 2012. Between two November road trips and a semester break for finals and the holidays, the team won't be back home until January. That puts a little more emphasis on putting in a good effort this weekend.
"Hopefully we learned our lesson last weekend because we're coming in against Stanford and Santa Clara," said Ian Seidl. Stanford is currently 0-5 on the year, and
should not better not be a tough test for the Spartans. Santa Clara, on the other hand, may be a better match up. Despite being a D3 team, the Broncos are 6-5 and have two wins against D2 Stanford. That includes a 14-0 victory over the Cardinal early on this year. "Anytime you get to play against any of the teams in the Bay Area and prove you're the best, it's always a good thing," said Christian DeJesus. Hopefully, the Spartans fire on all cylinders this weekend and put on a good show for the San Jose hockey fans.
Remember, this is the last chance to catch Spartan hockey at Sharks Ice in San Jose until January! The Spartans host Stanford this Friday at 7:30 pm, and Santa Clara at 7:00 pm on Saturday. The Santa Clara game will be broadcast live on 90.5 fm KSJS San Jose, and both games will be streamed online by Black Dog Enterprises.