Rivalries come in many forms.
Sometimes they're bred from proximity.
Others from familiarity and frequency of play.
Yet the ones that seem to have the most deep-seated burn are those in which one side seems to always find a way to win, no matter the circumstances.
For Ice Hockey at UCSB, the Ice in Paradise era has given the Gauchos the opportunity to build up a healthy dislike for a number of teams.
Heading in to the 2016-17 season, the opportunity to tangle with the local rival California Lutheran Knights was exciting. The two dates against the Chapman Panthers however, dredged up different feelings.
After all, it was the Panthers who skated away with an overtime victory in the first ever collegiate hockey game played on the Ice in Paradise sheet. A furious rally in the third period had given UCSB a 6-5 lead. Yet, the name that would come to haunt the team in both 15-16 and 16-17, Heikki Veharanta, scored the game tying goal. 3:57 in to the extra session, he netted the winner.
7-6 in overtime, Chapman had claimed the first win at the new rink in Goleta.
When the teams met down in Anaheim at the KHS Ice Arena, a rink smaller than regulation NHL-size with close walls on either side, and seating for their boisterous fans directly over top the benches, the fans were in position to make an impact. Not to mention, a low ceiling where any puck played high in the air had the chance of catching one of the many pipes and cross-supports. The winning goal came off a home rink bounce, once again Veharanta tucking it home, this time in regulation, and once again 7-6.
The final meeting came in the championship game of the NCHA's 2016 California Cup Playoffs. UCSB battled their way through a tough 2-1 win in the play-in game against UC-San Diego, before shocking the no. 1 seeded California Lutheran 8-7 in overtime to reach the final. Thereafter, of course, awaited Chapman, who wore down the Gauchos with a comprehensive effort shutting down the neutral zone en route to a 5-0 win and the title.
Fast forward to Halloween weekend of 2016- in front of a packed house with fans waiving Gaucho gold rally towels, UCSB faced off against the Panthers looking to avenge their championship white-washing.
Action was fast and furious from the get-go, with each team scoring three times in the opening 20 minutes. Mitchell Pagliuso and Cooper Spears made it a 2-0 lead with 13:02 played, before the visitors clawed back level. Christian Okpysh appeared to give the blue and gold a huge boost of momentum heading in to the locker room, scoring with 20 seconds to play in the first period, only for Veharanta to net his second of the game 11 seconds later.
After a scoreless second, Captain Goldszer again put the Gauchos in front, but an unassisted power play tally from Veharanta tied it up near the midway mark. Just over a minute and a half later, another thorn in UCSB's side, imposing defenseman Tyler Kring, who was frequently a setup man against the Gauchos, scored what proved to be the game winner. Veharanta added a power play marker, then a Panther empty netter sent the UCSB fans home disappointed with a 7-4 loss.
Come the rematch, Ice Hockey at UCSB rode a crest of momentum in to their trip to Orange County. With wins in five of their six games since falling to Chapman, the Gauchos were determined to end the four-game losing streak to their black, maroon and gray rivals.
UCSB came out dominant, jumping to a 3-0 lead on the strength of goals by Andrew Vieyra, Kyle Mooney, and Dmitriy Pyagay. But, as seemingly always, Veharanta found a way to score before intermission to cut the edge to 3-1. It gave Chapman the jump to start the second, as Veharanta and Easton Miller scored to tie up just past the midpoint of the game.
Kevin Mooney had an answer though just 1:39 later to reassert the Gaucho wedge, with Tyler Barone pushing it back up to two. Still, the Panthers would not go away and again clawed one back to make it a 5-4 game heading in to the third.
That's when Goldszer drew on nearly two seasons of frustration. The captain scored twice in a 31 second span, pushing UCSB to the seemingly magic seven goal total that had been Chapman's final mark in three of the previous four meetings. Then Hunter Van Duzer scored off a Kyle Mooney feed at 6:39 to make it 8-4. Chapman scored again 1:06 later, but the Gauchos were not to be denied as Goldszer completed his hat trick, then Pyagay closed out the scoring with less than three minutes remaining.
Goldszer finished with three goals and two assists, while Vieyra, who had long been a steady defensive presence, erupted with five assists after opening the scoring. The six-point game stands as the biggest offensive evening by a Gaucho defenseman in the Ice in Paradise era, and only Pagliuso's eight points (five goals, three assists) and Barone's seven points (two goals, five assists) against UC-Santa Cruz were higher single-game outputs for the season.
It was a win a long time coming for the program, and one the team savored as it secured the Gauchos spot atop the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association standings in their first season of ACHA Division-II competition. With Chapman not on the slate for the 17-18 season, it also means bragging rights until the next time the two programs meet.
Every game is an important one for Ice Hockey at UCSB. While the Gauchos won't face off with the Chapman Panthers this season, meetings with California Lutheran will surely once again get hearts racing. Northern opponents Santa Rosa JC and Santa Clara, who went a combined 0-6-0 against UCSB last season, aught to have similar motivations for their two meetings this season.
Rivalries are what make sports fun. They simmer the lifeblood of programs to a hearty boil, add new editions of tales to tell, and make memories to last a lifetime.