One team was hoping to assert their dominance over their Gold Rush rival this past weekend, but once again the UC Davis Aggies and Cal Golden Bears traded victories and remain tied in their season series with 2 wins apiece.
The first time the two clubs met on October 1st, Cal came out on top 4-3. Two months later, the Aggies produced what was dubbed by some as a surprising upset when they defeated the defending Gold Rush champion Golden Bears in the semi-final round with a final score of 4-1.
Friday was the first time both clubs took to the ice since the Gold Rush tournament, having taken nearly a month off for the winter break.
Cal coach Cyril Allen said his team didn’t have too many opportunities to practice.
“The players are generally at home to visit their families because they’re transplants from all over. I’m still missing a third of my team,” Allen said. “We normally dress 19 and two and I have another five or six players that are on the roster, but scratched.”
Friday night, UC Davis registered the first shot 40 seconds after the opening face off when Aggie center Jeff Imahara went for the wraparound attempt that was swiftly blocked by Cal netminder Brad Buss.
With 12:41 remaining in the first period Cal left winger Chris Moulton charged the net with the puck, but lost his edge in the process. Before falling off balance Moulton still managed to drop the puck for line mate Sean Haq whose shot from the slot was stoned by Aggie goalie Richard Niedzwiecki.
Halfway into the opening session, Cal produced another promising scoring opportunity with a three-on-two breakaway, however center Tony Arietta’s shot sailed right of the net.
Seconds later Niedzwiecki wandered from the paint to play the puck in the corner, but Cal quickly regained possession with a wide open net, but Niedzwiecki managed to slide back into position to make a last second kick save.
With 5:55 remaining and the score still tied at zero, Aggie rookie Ben Dines threw the puck from behind his back to winger Anthony Gadd who then whiffed on the one-timer.
On the duo’s second attempt Dines pass floated across the crease and appeared to ricochet off Gadd as he charged the net. The puck flipped past Buss and into the Cal cage with 1:06 remaining on the clock to provide UC Davis with a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.
At 2:51 of the middle frame Davis generated a two-on-one breakaway as defenseman Mike White raced up the right side boards and ripped a shot from the top of the face-off circle. Buss was unable to control the rebound, which landed right in front of Dines who connected with his second goal of the night to bump the Aggies lead to 2-0.
Cal center Sean Haq was upset after Davis went up by two.
“The other team was getting more lucky bounces, yet I thought we were working harder.” Haq said. “Things were going their way.”
Haq soon turned the momentum in his team’s favor at 12:50 of the second period when his pass from behind the Davis net found Moulton in the slot to slam home the one-timer to put Cal on the board.
Moulton said Haq often sets him up for the one-timers.
“There were two guys down low. I skated the puck down and back to Sean (Haq) behind the net and he curled around and threw it right in the pocket between a couple guys’ legs.” Moulton said.
At 13:00 Davis blueliner White tossed Cal right winger Moazeni into the Aggie net, knocking it off the moorings and Moazeni to the ice. White’s actions would provide Cal with their first power play of the contest.
Davis was able to fend off the Bears’ first five-on-four attack, but with 1:33 remaining in the session White was once again sent to the sin bin and Cal were not to be denied during their second power play.
Just 20 seconds in Moazeni tallied the equalizer after Haq passed to defenseman Chris Dang whose shot deflected out to Moazeni stationed at the backdoor for the easy tap in.
Dang said Haq initiated the play when he drew all of the defenders to him in the corner.
“I cut in behind and I was in open ice and he just dished over to me and I got a quick shot off, but not quick enough because their goalie came over. But Amir (Moazeni) was standing right on the strong side post and just tapped in the rebound,” Dang said.
Tied at 2-2 the start of the third produced a myriad of scoring opportunities for both squads, but for more than ten minutes neither team could light the lamp.
At 7:57 Davis forward Birnbaum was hit with a two-minute infraction, allowing Cal to go back on the power play for a third time.
Less than 30 seconds into the man advantage Dang beat Niedzweicki glove side for the go-ahead goal and Cal’s first lead of the night.
The Bears soon tallied an insurance goal after Moulton once again found the back of the cage on a feed from Haq with 10:47 remaining in the match for a 4-2 lead.
With roughly two minutes left to play, Québec native Francois Pellerin was sent to the box for Cal providing Davis with a potential six-on-four opportunity with their netminder pulled.
The Aggies didn’t need to send Niedzwiecki to the bench for the extra man as leading goal scorer Jeff Imahara found the back of the net just 10 seconds in to pull his team back to within one.
With the score 4-3 and a little more than a minute remaining a time-out was called as both teams plotted their finals plays of the game.
After the puck dropped and action resumed, Davis took control so Niedzwiecki could race for the boards to allow Dines to join the offensive rush.
At 19:27 Haq intercepted a pass and from his team’s defensive zone, threw the puck at the empty net. There was little more Davis could do than watch the biscuit float down the ice and toward the twine securing the Bears’ victory with a final score of 5-3.
The Golden Bears would take the first of back-to-back games before heading to Vacaville on Saturday to play the Aggies in their barn.
Coach Allen said he was happy to see his team keep the momentum going throughout the entire game.
“It seems like the pulled themselves together individually and as a team,” Allen said.
Davis grad student Berk Nelson was notably absent during Friday night’s contest, but returned to the ice on Saturday to provide his team with a critical goal on their way to a 6-3 win over the Bears.
Imahara was the big playmaker of the second match, notching three assists and a goal. White also produced with two goals of his own. Birnbaum and center Jeremy Brooks also contributed with a goal each.
Cal’s top line of Moulton, Haq and Moazeni picked up the most points. Haq had three assists, Moazeni had two and Moulton was the only Bear to get on the board with a hat trick.
Haq attributed the loss primarily to Cal’s inability to keep out of the penalty box.
“Almost half of the game was spent shorthanded on our part. We scored first in the game and even went up 2-0, but our team kept getting stupid penalties and it cost us - there's only so many short handed situations a team can get away with,” Haq said. “They scored two goals on a five-minute major assessed to one of our forwards.”
Coach Allen said he respects Davis as much as any other team.
“I never discount them. They use everything they have and they work hard and I appreciate that with any team, no matter whether they have more skill or less, as long as they work hard,” Allen said. “I just have to figure out how to beat them.”
For more information on the Cal hockey team and their schedule, visit their Web site at www.calicehockey.com
UC Davis and Cal Berkeley Split Home-and-Home Series
By A. Sheldon