Huntington Beach, CA- The UC San Diego Roller Hockey Club clinched a 2015/16 playoff birth after registering two points over the weekend, February 20th. Entering the tournament, the Tritons needed just one win in their final four games of the regular against CSU Fullerton, UC Irvine, Cal, and Chico State to play in the March 5 playoff tournament.
The first game of the day was an early 8AM puck drop against a second place CSU Fullerton team. The Tritons came out strong when Junior forward Grant Marcy buried an early power play goal. The speed of the Titans was hard to match however as they rebounded with three goals to take a 3-1 lead after the first. The second period was a hard fought battle that saw lots of back and forth chances but no goals for either team. Fullerton looked to put the game out of reach early in the third period as they extended their lead to 4-1, but the Tritons rallied back, determined to tie the game. Two quick goals just 20 seconds apart by UC San Diego cut the lead to 4-3 with just 5 minutes remaining. Desperate to tie the game, the Tritons had to take every chance they could, but CSUF was able to take advantage of a late game mistake and extended their lead to 5-3. An empty net goal was more than enough to put the game away as the Tritons fell to 6-5-2 on the season.
The second game of the day pitted UC San Diego against UC Irvine. The first period was a hard fought defensive battle for the Tritons, led by Senior goaltender Peter Simonsen who made 12 of his 36 saves in opening frame. Midway through the second period, the Anteaters finally broke the tie and took a 1-0 lead. UCI would add another goal just minutes later to extend their lead to two. Entering the third period, UC San Diego came out flying looking to muster up some offense. Finally with just two minutes remaining the Tritons snuck one by Irvine’s netminder to cut the lead to one. With the goalie pulled, UC San Diego launched one finally attack but was unable to tie the game. Another empty net goal would give Irvine the 3-1 victory and see San Diego fall to 0-2 on the day.
The third game of the day saw UC San Diego face off against the Cal Bears. With both teams needing points to cinch a playoff spot, the competitiveness reached new heights. The first period showcased two teams playing a solid defensive game, trying not to surrender the first goal. A bad bounce with just two minutes left in the first however put the Tritons at a disadvantage as they trailed 1-0. The defensive battle continued into the second period until Cal extended their lead to 2-0 on a power play goal with five minutes remaining in the frame. Knowing that their playoff hopes rested on this game, the Tritons offense came to life in the third period as they buried three quick goals in a matter of four minutes to give them the 3-2 lead. Determined to tie the game however, Cal quickly responded tying the game at three. With the game now heading into overtime, a huge point was on the line for both teams. Just three minutes into overtime, Junior forward Dylan Shives rocketed a puck past the Cal goaltender giving them a 4-3 win and enough points to send them to Regionals.
The last game of the day for the UC San Diego Roller Hockey Club matched them up with first place Chico State. Despite the team having already played three games earlier in the day, the Tritons came out flying against the Wildcats who were playing their first game of the weekend. The first period was all San Diego as they outshot Chico 11-7 but were unable to find the back of the net. The second period was a much more even frame as UCSD started to show some fatigue, but both teams continued to play hard, with neither one giving an inch. Finally in the third period, Senior Zane Curdes ripped a shot past the Wildcat goaltender to break the scoreless tie and put the Tritons up 1-0. A relentless attack from Chico continued for the remainder of the game and finally with 2 minutes left, the Wildcats broke through and tied the score. Despite the game looking like it was going into overtime, a defensive breakdown lead to a breakaway for the Wildcats with just 15 seconds left in the third period. Chico was able to convert on the opportunity and give them the 2-1 advantage. With not enough time to muster a comeback, the Tritons fell in shocking fashion.
Despite falling to 7-7-2 on the season, the UC San Diego Roller Hockey Club clinched a playoff birth and will play again on March 5 in Corona, CA. The team will look to hoist the Western Conference Trophy for the first time since 2009.