Ice Jacks survive second game scare, sweep 49ers

 

By Matt Esaena 

Sophomore forward Vinny Eck spots the puck and chases after it. (Photo by Andrea Sanchez)

Hockey season is in full swing this time of the year and the Division II Ice Jacks are not taking that for granted. After sweeping the Long Beach State University (LBSU) 49ers this past weekend, NAU hockey improved its regular-season record to 8–1.

On Nov. 2, the Ice Jacks shutout the 49ers 3–0 and Saturday, NAU rallied after giving up a three-goal lead to end the night with a 5–3 victory.

“We were a lot better defensively this weekend than we were last game,” said head coach Travis Johanson. “Their goalies played well both nights. We had two good games.”

The match-up on Nov. 3 probably made the Ice Jacks’ fans nervous. NAU held a 3–0 lead heading into the third period and about midway through that frame, the 49ers tied the game at three, but the Ice Jacks rebounded from those miscues and rallied back to score twice in the final five minutes of the game.

Forwards senior James Terry, junior Greg Park, and sophomore Vinny Eck each tallied a goal and an assist on the score sheet for NAU. Senior forward Taylor Dustin also had a multi-point night with two assists of his own, while senior forward Jonathan Isbell burried the game-winning goal. Senior goaltender Quinn Mason had to be one of the stars of the game as he was forced to make 40 saves to give his team the mark in the win column.

It was not all good news for NAU that night. Senior defenseman Aaron Ghan was scratched from the lineup for both games of the series, making it three straight games he has been held out of the lineup, while freshman defenseman James Takacs received a game misconduct in the second period when he put a violent cross-check on a 49ers player. Takacs will have to sit out the next game. Another roster move that was made by the NAU coaching staff Nov. 3 was activating junior forward Zach Vachris. Vachris was held out of the lineup over the past few months due to an off-ice incident.

“We have to work on not letting that happen,” Park commented on giving up the three-goal lead. “After they showed they were not giving up, so, we got back together and finished the game strong. It was a good learning experience and test for our team.”

In the matchup on Nov. 2, Mason was equally as steller. The senior net-minder made 33 saves to seal his second shutout of the season. Senior forward Rob Brown, junior forward Ryan Greenspan and Eck handled the scoring for NAU. The Ice Jacks made good decisions with the puck in their own zone cutting down on turnovers, which ultimately reduced the scoring chances for LBSU.

It would not be a weekend series for NAU without penalty minutes: the Jacks recorded 41 penalty infraction minutes (PIMS) over the weekend. Penalty minutes are something that has haunted NAU hockey season after season. Luckily, the Jacks penalty was close to perfect, only giving up two power-play goals in the series. The Jacks power play, which seemed to have been improved last game in Las Vegas, went back into a struggle. The Jacks made poor passes in the offensive zone with the man-advantage causing them to lose control of the puck and not utilize the entire power-play.

As the weather here in Flagstaff starts to drop mightily, the Ice Jacks are California dreaming. Now that the LBSU series is over, NAU will travel to the Golden State for three games: a faceoff against Loyola Marymount and two games against Cal State Fullerton. Then the Jacks will return home the following weekend to battle their in-conference rivals San Diego State University.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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