As the regular season came to an end, the San Jose State Spartans hockey team ended things on a high note. They defeated CSU Fullerton twice in come-from-behind victories. Those wins helped the Spartans jump up to #5 in the West regional rankings and sent them on a collision course with the #8 Texas A&M Aggies in the first game of the regional playoffs in Flagstaff, Ariz.
SJSU had won the previous meeting between the two teams 3-1, and looked even better this time around. Goaltender Mario Retana earned his fourth shutout of the season as the Spartans skated to a 4-0 win. "My defense stepped up at the proper times," said Retana. "They allowed me to see in front of the net when shots were coming from the point." It was a big improvement from the high-scoring games against Fullerton. "It seemed like everyone just wanted it more," said Retana.
After knocking off the Aggies, the Spartans had to face the #4 Utah Utes. These two rivals have met many times in previous years, but Utah won the only meeting of the 2013-2014 season 6-1 back in November. SJSU would have to have a much more solid defensive effort this time around if they wanted a spot in Nationals. And that's exactly what they got. Head Coach Phil Hazelwood said the key to the game was a commitment to defensive system he put in place. "Look at the last two or three minutes - we just blocked a ton of shots," said Hazelwood. "You could just tell we wanted that."
To Utah's credit, the Utes solidly controlled puck possession in the game, but SJSU's two second period goals were enough to give them the 2-1 victory. The game-winning-goal ended up coming off the stick of senior forward Johnny Germaine on a late second period power play. "Ian (Seidl) shot it at the net, and it deflected off of somebody in the middle and it bounced right to me," said Germaine. It was a beautiful one-timer that gave the Spartans the lead. "Mason (Console) got mad at me the first night for not burying a shot, so on the second night, I had to put it in."
I can describe the game all I want in words, but there's nothing quite like seeing the emotion of the win. If only someone put together a highlight reel of that game and broadcaster Jonathan Wold's great call. Oh, hey look:
The win sends the Spartans to Nationals for the 10th time in school history, and the 6th time in the last decade, according to Andy Dickerson, former Spartan and semi-official team historian. With over 200 teams in ACHA D2, making it to the final 16 is quite an accomplishment for the team. The tournament is run somewhat similarly to the Olympics. There are four pools of four teams. Each team in a pool plays the others once. The best out of each pool will make it to the semi-finals, with the championship game wrapping things up on March 25th.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, going to Boston isn't cheap. And this is where the team is asking for your help.
The team will need to raise roughly $25,000 for the trip in the next month, according to the team's treasurer: Schuyler Krawczuk. "We're a club sport," Krawczuk emphasized. "It's mainly funded by our players." Each member of the team has already payed over $4000 in player dues, plus the amount of money it cost to travel to the regional playoffs in Arizona. Saddling the entire bill on the players again for this trip is impossible. "Being students, it's not something we could all afford" said Krawczuk.
The team is planning many fundraising events in the coming weeks, including a raffle at the March 8th Alumni game. If some of the tentative plans come together, there could be a few more surprises that we'll be sure to inform you of here on Fear The Fin. Until then, you can directly at the team's website, or head to their Indiegogo page for some rewards back for your donation, including tickets and credits to watch some broadcasts with yours truly on the call. Expect to hear a lot about SJSU in the coming weeks if you follow any type of hockey media in the Bay Area.
I can honestly say I've never been more proud to say this:
Fight on, Spartans!