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SJSU Splits Weekend Series with Eastern Washington University

By A. Sheldon

SJSU vs Eastern Washington University

Friday night at Logitech Ice Center the Spartans defeated Dr. Jeykll, but the following evening Mr. Hyde came out to play.

Eastern Washington University has won just five of their last 13 games, but two of those wins came at the expense of teams holding down one of the top four spots in the ACHA’s Division II Western Region rankings.

Last week, in a major upset the 9th ranked EWU Eagles handed the 2nd ranked University of Colorado Buffaloes a crushing 3-2 decision.

On Saturday, 4th ranked San Jose State and current point leader met a similar fate when the Eagles brought their Colorado game to the Tech and hit SJSU with their first loss on home ice.

Spartan assistant coach Martin Moody said it’s been a merry-go-round of ups and downs for every team.

“This (loss) throws a big monkey wrench into the whole rankings because EWU beat Colorado and now they beat us, but we also beat them and USC who beat Utah State,” Moody said. “It will be interesting to see when the new rankings come out to see where everyone is when it all settles down.”

Even though the 4-3 loss to EWU was devastating for players and fans alike, SJSU can still boast an impressive record. The club has won 14 of their 17 games with the latest victory a 4-2 decision over the Eagles on Friday night.

sjsu vs ewu

EWU came out strong and was awarded the first powerplay at 1:27 of the match when SJSU’s Lonny Lovins was hit with a two-minute holding infraction.

A minute into San Jose’s penalty kill the puck slid to a stop in front of an open Spartan net. Freshman blueliner Paul Fuller was able to skate the loose puck out of harms way to avoid an easy Eagle tally.

Back at even strength, Spartan netminder Joe Best made three consecutive saves when two of his rebounds bounced back onto a EWU stick before Best was finally able to cover the puck at the near post to draw the whistle.

With 14:32 remaining in the first, the Spartans were provided a powerplay opportunity when Eagle Lucas Fellman was called for boarding.

The home team wasn’t able to convert on the man advantage, but managed to maintain the momentum and continue to cycle the puck in EWU’s zone before the Eagles were finally able to clear with 9:20 left on the clock.

For the remainder of the opening period the Spartans threw a few more pucks at Eagle goalie Rob Mattison to no avail.

The final attempt to connect with the back of the EWU cage came with less than 10 seconds to go when SJSU defenseman Logan Martinez’s shot was deflected out to D-man Andy Whiteside whose top shelf attempt sailed over the crossbar before the period ended.

Roughly five minutes into the second stanza veteran forward Jon Barney slammed an Eagle skater to the ice with a huge open ice check in front of the Spartan bench just as the referee blew the whistle.

SJSU was faulted for having too many men on the ice and senior center Chris Lee would serve the two-minute minor.

At 12:34 two Spartan rookies would provide their team with a 1-0 lead. Forward Jeff Mattern walked up the left side boards and dropped the puck for SJSU’s point leader Sean Scarbrough who slammed the biscuit into the bottom left corner of the basket.

Four minutes later SJSU found the back of the net again when defenseman Whiteside and Spartan captain Ray Kellam forged a 2-on-1 opportunity. Whiteside fed a perfect pass to Kellam for the one-timer to bring the Spartan lead to 2-0 before the end of the second period.

At the start of the final frame San Jose would strike again as forward Adam Dekeyrl lit the lamp with his 9th goal of the season.

Dekeyrl said an Eagle defenseman was unsuccessful in trying to clear the puck, which set up the open shot.

“Their goalie passed it to his defenseman. It was probably knee level and I batted it down and shot it in. (Mattison) was out of the net. He tried to dive back in or something, but I honestly didn’t know where he was,” Dekeryl said.

With 12:01 remaining in the third stanza Jon Barney was sent to the sin bin after SJSU goaltender Joe Best was assessed an interference penalty. The call would provide the Eagles with a 30-second 5-on-3 opportunity.

Just eight seconds into the two-man advantage, Eagle Travis Popp slipped the puck past Best to put EWU on the board.

Best said he had been dropping EWU skaters all night, but hadn’t been called for it up until that point.

“This time I was actually just trying to get out of the way and the guy threw his head right into my shoulder and almost decapitated himself and they called me for interference,” Best said. “It hurt him, but it hurt us on the scoreboard.”

A few minutes later EWU would pull within one as Garrett Sliger notched his second goal of the season when his shot from the near side circle found the back of the Spartan net.

The Eagles desperately pushed for the equalizer, forcing Best to stand on his head in the final minutes.

With Mattison out of the net to bring on the extra attacker, Spartan forward Mason Nave picked off the puck in the neutral zone to skate in on the empty net to solidify an SJSU victory with a final score of 4-2.

Best said all-in-all it was a good game.

“They came out pretty strong. Mostly, they had a lot of little chippy rollers and knucklepucks in front,” Best said.

The following night, game two of the back-to-back series found the Spartans struggling to maintain a determined Eastern Washington squad set on stealing a game in San Jose.

sjsu vs ewu

Ray Kellam said it was a battle of two evenly matched teams.

“Last night we out hussled them and tonight they out hussled us,” Kellam said.

Assistant coach Moody had a slightly different take on the situation, basing his assessment on the level of talent.

“This whole weekend, they out skated us both games. Our talent won the first game, but it didn’t turn out that way this game,” Moody said.

At 3:02 the Eagles thought they had secured an early lead after the puck slipped past the outstretched gloves of Spartan netminder Ryan Lowe and over the goal line, but the referee waved off the goal and the score remained 0-0.

The sigh of relief from the crowd was quickly squandered when EWU’s biggest offensive threat Kyle Sargent was able to skate in alone on Lowe and after a quick deke flipped the puck into the cage for the first goal of the night at 3:55.

Kellam said many of the plays had developed under weird circumstances.

“Their first goal the guy went to take a slap shot and it got blocked. It bounced past (our defenseman) and he didn’t know where it was and (Sargent) skated around him and got the breakaway,” Kellam said. “It was a fluke and we didn’t get the same shake going back our way.”

After the face-off at center ice, San Jose State was quick to answer the Eagle’s tally when Adam Dekeyrl knocked the puck past Eagle goalie Matt Pippinger from the near side circle with the support of linemates Mason Nave and Kelly Spain to even the score at 15:47.

For the remainder of the period a plethora of obscure penalties were called, providing nearly 15 minutes of open ice 5-on-4, 4-on-4 and 4-on-3 special team sequences.

The most bizarre call of the night was assessed to the Spartans at 18:44 when blueliner Trevor Lee was sent to the penalty box on a delay of game infraction, which had most of the fans in attendance wishing they had access to a hockey rule book to discredit the referee’s decision with a legit source.

With 15.6 seconds remaining in the opening stanza Andy Whiteside was sent to the box for roughing, which resulted in another EWU 5-on-3 advantage that would carry over to the second period.

Less than 30 seconds into the middle stanza, the Eagles were finally called for goalie interference after running Lowe with Ville Nieminen-like determination twice in the opening period."

Lowe escaped injury, but freshman foward Tommy Lee would suffer a 12-inch cut and shoulder sprain after suffering the brunt of an Eagle's hard check as he skated up the far side boards.

Prior to the hit that forced him to sit out the rest of the contest, Lee was able to pass the puck to forward Skyler Yu who slammed it home for the go-ahead goal.

SJSU wasn’t able to maintain the lead for long when Eagle Lucas Fellman beat Lowe with a shot from the near side boards at 6:09 of the second period.

Barney delivered a few crushing blows to the opposition, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with his performance.

sjsu vs ewu

“I wish I had given a little bit more,” Barney said.

The final 20 minutes started off promising as Dekeyrl put the Spartans back on top 28 seconds into the final period when his shot from the far side face off dot gave SJSU the lead for the second time.

With 16:20 remaining in the game, captain Kellam performed a decent reenactment of the Sharks Kyle McLaren’s memorable crushing blow against St. Louis Blue’s Petr Cajanek at the far side boards.

“I had a great screen. He didn’t see me because there was a guy in front of him. I sneaked it in,” Kellam said.

With 14:58 left to play, the San Jose State fire was once again doused by another EWU goal to level the playing field at 3-3.

Mason Nave and Sean Scarbrough both had great chances to regain the lead, but they were unable to flip the puck past Pippinger.

sjsu vs ewu

EWU turned the tide and ravenously sought the game-winning goal. Their last ditch effort proved fruitful as the Eagles connected with their 4th goal of the night with just 1:36 remaining on the clock.

With less than a minute left to go, Eagle Kyle Dedden was called for holding and the Spartans pulled Lowe for a 6-4 man advantage.

Play would resume with a face off in the far side circle of the EWU zone.

As the seconds ticked off the clock there were scrambles up against the boards, battles in the crease, missed chances out front, scrums behind the net and EWU was finally able to clear as the final horn sounded to end the match.

The Eagle squad celebrated as if they had just won the Stanley Cup with a 4-3 win over a better foe and continued to do so as the Spartans lined up to salute the fans with sticks held high.

Spartan rookie Chris Clark was unable to partake in the Eastern Washington match-ups, but was still devastated by the loss.

“It was very disheartening to lose on our home ice with 2 minutes to go and they put the go-ahead goal in the net,” Clark said. “We had our chances on the final powerplay, but we still couldn’t do it.”

Clark also said the Spartans 4th place position may be at jeopardy because of the loss, but retained a positive outlook on the future.

“It’s really competitive right now and we’re just going to have to put the loss behind us and just keep going forward,” Clark said.

The Spartans get to enjoy a couple weeks off during the Thanksgiving break, but will return to the ice for the Gold Rush Tournament when they face Stanford University on December 3rd at Logitech.