Bad News for the Bears

By A. Sheldon

It’s been a bleak start to the CAL Golden Bears 2005-06 campaign – capturing just two road wins amid 11 devastating losing decisions during the month of October.

With a couple key departures from the blue line and the loss of full-time goaltender Brad Buss, the Bears seasoned veterans expressed a shadow of uncertainty about the shake-up, but also exuded optimism regarding the new ranks.

In the first series of the season the team hit the road to face bitter Pac-8 rival USC and failed to pick up any points after falling 12-2 and 8-6.

The Bears returned to Berkeley Iceland the following weekend to host another division foe, the UCLA Bruins on October 7-8. Within the cold confines of the vast Olympic-sized facility, the Bears and Bruins began the match in crowd-pleasing fashion, with UCLA holding on to a slight 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of play.

But in the end, the scoreboard read 8-2 in favor of the visitors – spoiling CAL’s bid for an opening night victory.

The second game proved more promising as both teams skated to a 1-1 tie after the initial frame, but the Bruins once again found a way to win on the road – upsetting the Bears 4-2.

After another week of work, classes and late night practices, the Golden Bears headed north to Washington, where they managed to author back-to-back wins against Washington State University on October 14-15. Cal head coach Cyril Allen said the victories against the Cougars were the result of the team coming together.

“Changes were made and it produced results,” Allen said. “It was a momentum builder.”

However, the boys from Berkeley couldn’t carry that game-winning chemistry into their match against Eastern Washington University on October 16 in an attempt to close out a 3-game sweep in the Evergreen state.

Instead, the Golden Bears suffered a 10-1 rout at the hands of the EWU Eagles.

CAL captain Amir Moazeni scored the lone Bear goal to escape being blanked by last season’s No.5 team in the West Region. The crushing defeat would be the first of a 7-game losing streak, as CAL then took part in a home-and-home series on October 20-21 with San Jose State University, the No.13 team overall in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Just as the Eagles had four days earlier, the Spartans racked up ten goals against the Bears.

At 1:42 of the second period CAL connected with its only goal of the contest for the home crowd to celebrate, as Steve Polchinski walked in alone on Ryan Lowe, 2004-05’s All-West Region 1st-Team netminder. The sophomore winger tucked the puck 5-hole to pull his team within three, but SJSU’s all-time point leader Aaron Scott registered the Spartans fifth goal to quickly squander CAL’s momentum. Moazeni said SJSU simply dominated every aspect of the game. “It was the small things like beating us in the corners and giving that extra hit,” Moazeni said. “Overall, they just out-skated, out-hit and out-worked us.”

Game two saw the Bears travel to Logitech Ice in San Jose – considered one of the rowdiest barns in the west. In front of a Spartan crowd numbering more than 600 (roughly four times the number of bodies in Berkeley) – the Bears were buried 14-1, enduring one of their most devastating losses to date.

Once again CAL posted a goal during the opening minutes of the second session – this time, cutting the gap to two tallies. But unlike last season’s nail-biting 3-2 and 7-5 decisions in San Jose, the Bears couldn’t keep up – allowing 11 more Spartan goals before the night was over.

Coach Allen said despite having more depth to work with, it’s a matter of making that depth productive.

“I’m constantly making changes shift-by-shift,” Allen said. “This game is too dynamic to go with any one game plan.”

He added the Spartans also have a lot of depth and talent – and are working very hard out on the ice to make things happen. “They move the puck, fill lanes and are physically and technically solid.”

After seven days recovering from three straight double-digit routs, CAL made a return trip to southern California, which once again proved fruitless as the Bears were handed three more losses October 28-30. UCLA, led by USHL Clark Cup winner Martin Galstyan, continued to be too difficult for CAL to contain – as the Bruins took the 2-game series 10-1 and 4-2 at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.

On Halloween eve, the Bears traveled to battle CSU Long Beach and grabbed a rare 3-2 advantage before relinquishing the lead late in the game – allowing the Niners to come from behind to capture a 4-3 victory. The Berkeley Bears ended the month 2-11 overall, with the opposition outscoring them 97-33.

After posting a dreary .182 winning percentage in October, the CAL squad was hoping to start anew in November as a depleted roster made the trek to Oregon to face defending Pac-8 champions Oregon State University Ducks on Nov. 4-5.

The Ducks took full advantage of the travel weary “True Blue” road warriors, matching SJSU’s output of 14 goals to CAL’s one. However, the next night CAL answered the pounding with a 3-2 edging of OSU – despite icing only 13 skaters and two goaltenders.

It was the Golden Bears third victory of the year and the first in three long weeks. Now back home in Berkeley, CAL will be seeking that ever elusive home ice victory as they host Weber State University on Thursday night and the USC Trojans on Friday and Saturday.


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