After starting the season on fire, the UCSB men’s roller hockey team had their worst outing of the year, going 1-4 at the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League All-Star Weekend Tournament last weekend, with their lone win coming in an exhibition game against nonconference opponent Colorado State. The Gauchos (12-6-2) still occupy the first-place spot and are done with their regular season play. However, other teams in their conference still have games left and Santa Barbara’s future is uncertain.
“Realistically, we are probably looking at second or third [place],” senior forward MJ Jeffries said.
If UCSB had been more successful over the weekend, they could have solidified their shot at league title. However, the four losses should not keep Santa Barbara from locking up their first trip to Nationals in three years. Jeffries said that it was better to have such a poor stretch of performances at the end of the season as opposed to the postseason.
“If there was one weekend to have a bad weekend, this would be it,” Jeffries said. “We would rather do bad this weekend than at Regionals.”
Jeffries leads the offensive attack for the Gauchos with 20 goals and 14 assists this season. Close behind him is junior forward Mike Weiderhold, who has notched 18 goals and nine assists. Sophomore forward Adam Gould also had a break out year, putting up 24 points off 16 goals and eight assists. Together, this tremendous trio has led UCSB to a surprising season, but their sticks were no match for Long Beach State and UC Irvine.
The Gauchos opened up the tournament with a 2-6 loss to the 49ers. Santa Barbara hoped to bounce back in their next match against the Anteaters but couldn’t snag a win in two chances against UCI, falling by scores of 2-4 and 3-5. Already down 0-3, the Gauchos got one more chance to grab a conference win with a rematch against Long Beach. Although they were eager to earn some distance in their division, Santa Barbara’s woes continued with a 2-7 loss to the 49ers.
“The cards weren’t stacked in our favor this weekend,” Jeffries said.
Santa Barbara was in a hole from the beginning, as they were missing several key players during the weekend. Also hurting the team were extensive breaks of up to 10 hours between games, which made it extremely difficult to develop a rhythm. Additionally, sophomore goalie Jay Schoen said the Gauchos were unprepared for this weekend.
“We weren’t ready for this weekend,” Schoen said. “We only had eight skaters and a goalie.”
Despite this weekend, Schoen remains confident that Santa Barbara can win the WCRHL Western Regional Tournament.
“We still have a really good chance,” Schoen said. “We need to practice playing against those teams’ styles and skate a lot more.”
After this weekend, Santa Barbara is no longer the top dog in their division, but the Gauchos do have the advantage of time off to regroup, as they have nearly a month break until Regionals, which take place on Feb. 28. If they use this time to rest up and prepare adequately for the other Western Regional teams, their chances of heading to Nationals and even possibly winning the Regional Tournament look good.