After loosing the bulk of its lineup to graduation last year, the UC Santa Barbara roller hockey team was expected to have a mediocre year. However the men’s hockey team has exceeded everyone’s expectations, including their own, as they are off to a scorching-hot start. Santa Barbara is off to an 8-2-2 start, which is not only good enough for first place in the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League, but also has them ranked 13th in the nation.
“[Our] expectations [were to] be competitive,” senior forward and captain MJ Jeffries said. “[We] weren’t expected to be in first.”
Jeffries anchors the offense as he currently leads it with 25 points, coming off of 11 assists and a blistering 14 goals over a 12-game span. Not far behind him is junior defenseman Mike Wiederhold. Wiederhold currently has 12 goals and 7 assists, which is good enough for second on the team. The junior defenseman was a big surprise from last year as he only registered four goals in 17 games. He successfully stepped up to help his team contend, and he owes it all to hard work, proving the old adage “you only reap what you sow.”
“I’ve been practicing a lot,” Wiederhold said. “Coach [Greg Franks] stepped a lot [and] we have been having a lot of good practices.
Despite being second on the team in points, Wiederhold has grander aspirations of leading his offense, possibly all the way to Nationals.
“Right now MJ [Jeffries] is ahead of me in points, but I’m looking to pass him,” said Wiederhold.
Both Jeffries and Wiederhold rank near the top of the league in goals and overall points. If this dynamic duo can keep their luster, they just might fulfill their long-awaited goal. After missing out on Nationals for the last 4 years, Wiederhold is determined to make it back no matter what it takes.
“I’m going to shoot the puck through the goalie,” Wiederhold said.
With only eight games left until Nationals, the second-place UNLV Runnin’ Rebels are on the Gauchos toes. The Gauchos want to win league, but their first goal is to make it to Nationals, and with the tough conference this year, Jeffries expects four WCRHL teams to make it this year.
“[It’s] realistic to finish in top three [of league],” Jeffries said. “[It is] safe to say top four [teams] go to Nationals.”
The next action for the roller hockey team is the Jan. 24 tournament to be held at the lovely confines of Santa Barbara. The men who don the blue and gold will play a staggering four times that day, commencing the tournament with Cal State Northridge at 10 a.m., followed by Saddleback College at p.m. They will then face San Diego State at 5 p.m. and close out the tournament against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at 7p.m. These are the only games of the year that the Gauchos play on campus.
If home field advantage prevails, the Gauchos may come out of this tournament with four more wins and some distance between them and UNLV. The Gauchos desperately want to win the tournament at home.
“I hope to come out of the tournament 4-0,” Jefferies said.
Wiederhold, too, shares the same goal as his captain, and will do anything and everything to seek that goal.
“I want to come in first,” Wiederhold said.