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  • The Season That Was: Good Seasons Require Good Goaltending

    Gaucho goaltender Nora Penn was perhaps one of the most unheralded heroes of last season, and all coming from a somewhat unexpected place.

    Eric Evelhoch

    It started simply enough, with a message to the team Facebook page about whether goaltending equipment could be provided during tryouts.

    Then it was riding a bicycle to and from tryouts, getting fitted in an unfamiliar setup, and playing on a rink with different dimensions from those she had grown up on.

    Nothing was 'usual' about the way that Nora Penn found her way to the Ice Hockey at UCSB program. But, it's also unusual for ACHA programs to have the luxury of an international student with years of high level regional experience between the pipes.

    Playing with a men's hockey team was nothing new for Penn, who had played for Wanderers Germering in her native Germany. The club, a team in the Bavarian state league, had her slotted at the U19 level during the 14-15 season, and moved her up to U21 before the conclusion of the campaign. The following year at the age of 20, she suited up for the U23 side.

    Possessing all the stylistic hallmarks of European goaltending, Penn was able to comfortably adapt to the North American ice sheet with her strong positional and play-reading skills, backed by technically sound fundamentals. Very quickly the Gauchos found they had the backbone in net on which they could rely as a steady presence.

    Over the course of a campaign that saw her play nearly every minute of the season, save for 8:37 when backup Brian Scullion started against UCLA but suffered an injury, the German goalie would allow four or fewer goals in eight of her 15 appearances. During league play in the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association, Penn lead the outfit in minutes played and wins, while finishing second in saves, save percentage, and goals against average.

    It was in the biggest moments when her play shone brightest. She stared down and outperformed the PCHA's top goalie Frankie Nix when Santa Clara visited Ice in Paradise, allowing just five goals on 47 shots for the weekend, as the Gauchos won 3-2 in overtime and then 7-3. Against Santa Rosa JC in the final meeting between the teams she stopped 25 of 28 shots, including all eight in the third period to seal the deal and the season series sweep with a 4-3 win.

    However, it was against local rival California Lutheran where Penn authored her signature performance. The visiting Knights pelted her with pucks all night, yet through wave after wave she stood resolute. UCSB jumped ahead early 2-0 on goals by Tyler Barone and Christian Okpysh in the opening 91 seconds of the game, and from there the torrent off the sticks of the visitors unleashed.

    17 shots against in the first period, all saved. 16 more in the second, with only one through. Nine shots in the third period and overtime, and Penn denied all but one. When all was told, she stopped 40 of the 42 against, enabling the dramatic winner just 61 seconds in to the extra session when Barone ripped home his second of the game from the slot.

    After it was over, when she was being interviewed at center ice on the video broadcast, the rest of the Gauchos boisterously barreled up behind her to show their appreciation with hoots, hugs, head taps, and a little extra water to help cool off.

    To be able to compete on the ice, while balancing academics at a world class institution in a foreign land is an accomplishment to behold. To do so, and perform at such a high level is another entirely.

    It was striking on the final night of tryouts. Head coach Scott Hyers made sure to tell his goalie-to-be to get home safely as she readied to bike off in to the night, and in the future get a ride from her teammates. It's not a situation a hockey coach usually finds himself, and the team in.

    Then again, Nora Penn isn't your usual goalie.

  • UCSB Announces 19-Player Roster for 2017-18 Season

    Several returning players are joined by an abundance of newcomers for this season.

    Kyle Nicolas

    Ice Hockey at UCSB has announced a 19-player roster for the upcoming 2017-18 season. Several key faces have returned to the blue and gold-clad Gauchos for this season, and they are joined by an abundance of fresh faces which give the Gauchos an almost entirely-new look.

    Leading the returning players is captain Justin Goldszer, who is returning for his third season and second as the team’s leader. One of the team’s leading offensive players from a season ago, Cooper Spears, has also returned for his second year, and is expected to be relied upon heavily to power the offense for UCSB this time around. Tyler Barone has also returned to lead UCSB up the middle of the ice—Barone was one of the team’s most effective centers last season, and seems to come up with clutch goals when the team needs them the most. They’re joined by other returning forwards Christian Okpysh and Michael Herlihy.

    On defense, hard-hitting Dmitriy Pyagay and smooth-skating Andrew Vieyra make their returns and will be expected to power UCSB from the back end.

    The list of fresh faces this season is not a short one. New forwards include Chris Ewasiuk, Austin Trenner, Collin del Bonis, Demetri Strategos, Jackson Schutz, and Chris Crews-Holloway. New defensemen include Liam Gallant, Connor May, Emmett Rupert, and Adam Mingrone.

    At the very back, UCSB will carry two new goaltenders this season in Lennon Karma and Will Hahn. Hahn should be a familiar sight to Santa Barbara hockey fans, as he led the LAKHSHL’s Santa Barbara Royals program to back-to-back championships.

    In fact, there’s a strong contingent of local talent in this year’s squad, as six players list Santa Barbara, California as their hometown (Ewasiuk, del Bonis, Spears, Gallant, Rupert, and Hahn).

    The local contingent also includes the team’s coaching staff, which have all returned for a second season. Head coach Scott Hyers will once again be assisted by former Bowling Green State goaltender Ben Brecher and former-NHL and U.S. National Team player Steve Heinze.

    Ice Hockey at UCSB will once again be competing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association on the Division II level. They will open the new campaign this Friday, October 20th by welcoming the Santa Clara University Broncos for a prime-time 7pm faceoff. Tickets will be available at the door for just $5, and admission is free of charge for UCSB and SBCC students who bring their ID card.

    View the full roster here!

  • The Season That Was: Getting the Better of a Long-Time Rival

    Eric Evelhoch

    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.

  • The Season That Was: Building Rivalries in the UC System


    Eric Evelhoch

    Since 1996 collegiate hockey fans in the Golden State have been able to enjoy the play of the Pac-8 league, featuring some of the largest and most notable institutions in the University of California system.

    The 2016-17 season was a big one for Ice Hockey at UCSB, as for the first time in the Ice in Paradise era the team took to the frozen sheet against fellow UC opponents who field NCAA Division-I ICA programs. The Gauchos had previously faced UC-San Diego during the 15-16 season of NCHA competition, including a thrilling 2-1 win in the opening round of the 2016 California Cup Playoffs.

    First came a trip up north to the Oakland Ice Center, where UCSB faced off with University of California for a pair of match ups on back-to-back nights. Then the following Friday the team travelled to Burbank to face UCLA. Both the Bruins and Golden Bears have been part of the Pac-8 since the league's inception, and have combined for three championships between them.

    Faced with the tough task of getting physically ready following the six hour-plus road trip to essentially get off the bus and play, the Gauchos caught Berkeley by surprise just 47 seconds in to the game. Mitchell Pagliuso scored off a feed from Jesper Damgaard for the early lead, but after the initial adrenaline wore off the Golden Bears would equalize with nearly 12 minutes played. From there, the heavy legs from the tough travel day set in and Cal raced away to an 11-1 final.

    The next evening saw a better-rested UCSB put on a spirited showing. After giving up a pair early, Tyler Barone scored with 1:55 remaining in the first from Jaguar Lawrence to make it a one goal deficit at the horn. The Golden Bears again upped their edge to two again with nearly seven played in the second period, but first Justin Goldszer scored, then Pagliuso on the power play just over two minutes later made it 3-3 headed to the final frame.

    Once more the Gauchos were made to chase, with Cal scoring 1:54 in, then adding another at 4:04. Cooper Spears scored an unassisted strike to make it a one goal game, which it stayed for much of the remainder of the game. A spell of four-on-four gave even more open ice past the midpoint of the period, but neither side could convert until the hosts sealed it with 2:30 to play with a 6-4 win.

    On the following Friday UCSB travelled to Pickwick Ice Gardens in Burbank, testing themselves against the UCLA Bruins. It proved a physical and choppy game, with the teams combining for 42 minutes in penalties. Again the Gauchos gave up a goal early, but found themselves level after one thanks to the first goal of the season from Yevgeniy Slissenko.

    UCSB went ahead early in the second period, with Goldszer slamming home a rebound on the power play off an Andrew Vieyra shot. However the Bruins scored the next three in the second, as well as an early shorthanded goal in the third before Goldszer could again knock in a carom with the man advantage. A late empty-net goal sealed the 6-3 scoreline in favor of UCLA.

    While unfortunate, the losses taught the Gauchos valuable lessons they would take later in the season. Sitting with two wins and three losses after the away spell, UCSB went on to win seven of their final ten games to finish the season 9-6-0. Included in that run was a four-game winning streak, as well as a win over another UC school, blitzing UC-Santa Cruz 20-4 in the first meeting against the Slugs.

    It doesn't hurt either that UCLA would go on to claim their second Pac-8 championship later in their campaign, as well as taking home the Los Angeles Kings College Cup tournament.

    This season UCSB will once again face the Bruins, this time welcoming them to Ice in Paradise on Saturday, January 27th. Also, another UC will make their first trip to Goleta when the UC-Davis Aggies come calling on Sunday, January 14th. The team will also make a trip to UC-San Diego in early November, as well as close out their regular season slate again UC-Santa Cruz in early February.

    The Ice Hockey at UCSB program raised its profile in the 16-17 season. Not only by making the jump to ACHA Division-II competition, but by also taking on the biggest names the University of California system has to offer in athletics.