Ice Hockey Falls in Opener

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Generally speaking, when a team loses its season opener - or for that matter any game of the season, it is no grounds for celebration.

But for the Cal ice hockey team (0-1), its 5-3 loss to San Jose State (1-0) marked a great victory, and quite possibly a turning point for the program.

"We lost, but we played really well against a good team," Alex Kaplenko said. "We came out and hung with them from beginning to end and never let up. I think this is the start of a new season for all of us."

The Spartans were led by the outstanding three-point performances of left wing Jason James (two goals and one assist) and Rahsaan Whitney (three assists).

The Bears began the game on a note reminiscent of last year's mediocre season. In the first fifteen minutes of the first period alone, the Spartans scored goals from James and on a distant blue-line shot from left wing Scott Mittleman.

But the Bears, down 2-0 to a San Jose State offense that controlled the puck even in power play disadvanteges, put themselves back in the game on center Franck Rey-Herme's goal with 3:21 remaining in the period.

But as quickly as Cal found a spark, it was extinguished three minutes later by a questionable call from the referee. A fight broke out between Rey-Herme and James, resulting in double ejections and suspensions.

"Really, I thought it was bull," said Rey-Herme. "Even though I didn't throw a punch and he took off my (face) mask, I was suspended."

Because of mounting tension and vocal crowd objections to the call, the referrees ended regulation for the period before time expired and sent both teams to their locker rooms.

In the second period, SJSU center Doy Vind Han scored in the first five minutes, giving the Spartans a 3-1 lead. But Cal responded, scoring a late goal from wingman Jason Katzen resulting from a power play that left San Jose State with only four players on the ice.

The third period began very similar to the second with San Jose State once again scoring in the first five minutes. And once again, Cal answered late in the period from a power play conversion by Chris Dang.

San Jose State scored the final goal after Cal - in an effort to score before regulation ended - pulled the goalie and went went with a six man offensive effort and James got the puck behind the Bears offense.

Although the Bears' goalie Audrius Avizienis was displeased with the penalties the referees cited against the team, he was satisfied with Cal's play.

"The calls out there were bullshit," Avizienis said. "But we got a good team. We got a talented group of freshmen and they're coming through for the team."

Cal wingman Jason Waller shared the same sentiments.

"We just came out and played well against a team that we couldn't even contend with last year." Waller said. "Last year, we weren't even on their level. We got the talent and the will, so we'll be good this year. You just wait and see."


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