FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15
In February of 2019, Stanford Hockey stumbled into the playoffs after what many could rightfully call “a rough season.” Stanford ran up against Santa Clara in the semifinals, a team whose historically dominated the Cardinal, and was eliminated from the PCHA playoffs in a 5-3 defeat, though the game was far more competitive than either team would have anticipated. In many respects, that game was the start of a new era for the Cardinal, for it was during that night in Freemont that Spencer Mains made his first appearance as the head coach of Stanford Ice Hockey. Now, one year later, Stanford once faced Santa Clara in the PCHA semifinals, but this time it felt different. Mains had now been coaching the Stanford team for a full season, and the Cardinal was running hot after having their best season in recent memory. With an 11-8 record overall, and a stellar 10-4 record in division, Stanford fully expected to make a deep run in the playoffs, especially given regular season wins against powerhouse teams like Santa Clara, Santa Rosa, and Fresno State. With key new playmakers like Ian Chen and Miye D’oench joining the team this year, Stanford was playing fantastic hockey, and for the first time felt confident facing off against division rival Santa Clara. Both teams knew it was gonna be close, but nobody could predict that the game would ultimately go into double overtime.
Stanford was able to put its depth to use, and rolled out a strong three lines against the Broncos. Grad student Jolan Martin, playing his last competitive game for Stanford Hockey, centered the first line between electric wingers Miye D’oench and Matt Radzihovsky. Behind the first unit, the second line featured wingers Matt Grant and Woody Wang alongside center Sam Silverman. Rounding out the forwards was the third line, comprised of center Eddie Dilworth and wingers Gabby Vukasin and Giulia Socolof, with Jesse Hoke in rotation. Jake Levine, Peter Knowles, Sebastian James, Eric Matsumoto, and Zach Nunn held down the blue line, while sophomore Jack Campbell started in net. Against a highly disciplined and defensive-minded Santa Clara team, the Cardinal would need their playmakers to shine. And who better to make plays than team captain and point leader Woody Wang; after 10 minutes of back and forth hockey to start the game, Wang got the ice breaker to put Stanford on the board and in the lead. The chance developed off a fumbled zone clearance by Santa Clara; sophomore defenseman Peter Knowles was able to keep the puck in the offensive zone and move it towards the slot in the direction of Matt Grant. Grant, seeing an opening, slid the puck to Wang down low, and the jig was up. Wang, with space in front of the net, cut in towards the Bronco tendie, faked a shot to draw out the butterfly, then slid the biscuit five-hole when the tendie repositioned himself. A lightning strike from the second line shocked the Broncos, and gave Stanford the crucial first tally.
But as Wang giveth, so he taketh away. Only a few minutes later, a costly turnover by Wang gave Santa Clara their first of the game. The Cardinal was breaking out of their own zone, and as the other forwards shot up the ice to generate some offense, Wang turned the puck over in the corner. The Santa Clara forechecker immediately moved the puck into the slot, where a wide open Bronco one-timed it far side on Campbell. With their lead evaporated, the Cardinal needed a spark, or even better, a man-advantage. Despite struggling on the power play all game (more on that later…), it was off a Santa Clara penalty late in the first that Stanford got their second goal of the game. Center Jolan Martin, fighting through multiple injuries, won the draw clean back to pointman Jake Levine, who rifled a laser towards the Santa Clara net. Deflecting off a Bronco skate, the puck found its way to the back of the cage, and Stanford exited the first frame with a 2-1 lead.
Up by 1 as they headed into the second period, Stanford pushed the offense, and was rewarded as their second line struck again. Radzihovsky, still lingering from the first line, carried the puck into the zone with speed, drawing the Broncos defense low. Silverman followed in the slot, and opened up for a one-timer as Radzihovsky hit him on the tape. Silverman’s shot was blocked, but trickled to a wide open Matt Grant, who finished with a wrister over the tendie’s left shoulder. Stanford 3, Santa Clara 1. One more goal would surely seal the deal for Stanford, and they had plenty of opportunities as Santa Clara gave Stanford 7 powerplays throughout the game. Aside from Levine’s one PP goal, Stanford was awful with the man advantage throughout the match, often struggling to break into the zone. The Cardinal’s struggles came to a climax halfway through the second, as an errant pass sent Santa Clara on a breakaway. Campbell, who had stopped several breakaways prior to this point, was beat clean and the Broncos had life, down by 1 with half a game left to play. From then on, it was all Santa Clara as Stanford lost steam and played the remainder of the game in their defensive zone. Exemplary goaltending by Campbell kept the Cardinal on top, but early in the third period Santa Clara was gifted a 5-3 powerplay off a questionable roughing call from the officials. A deflected knuckle puck was the equalizer as it snuck by Campbell, and suddenly Santa Clara, who’d trailed all game, was even with Stanford.
With both teams playing excellent defense, it was no surprise that the game remained tied as regulation expired. The PCHA semifinals were headed into overtime. And then, double overtime as both teams traded chances but couldn’t net the game winner. With both goaltenders doing their best brick wall impressions, it would take either a fluke or a heroic goal to end the game. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a fluke: a Santa Clara point shot that went wide took a weird bounce and trickled right to a player in front of the net, who made no mistake and iced the game for the Broncos. After 80 minutes of grueling playoff hockey, Stanford was sent home in a 4-3 defeat. Though this season had a different feeling than last, it ended the same as Santa Clara went onto the finals in place of Stanford before ultimately being defeated by Santa Rosa in the championship match the next day.
Though Stanford’s season is over, there is more hockey to come: the Cardinal will face Santa Rosa in an exhibition game at the Shark’s Home Ice in San Jose, Thursday 2/22. Stanford will take the ice after the Sharks game against the Devils, and we’d love to see some fans come out! Stanford is providing transportation to/from the game, and this could be your last chance to see departing players Jolan Martin and Ian Chen wear their Stanford jerseys. Please email email@example.com if you’re interested!
We’d like to thank all our fans for their support throughout the season, as well as Steve Silverman for providing commentary and live-streaming many of this year’s games (including the playoffs, go watch the replay on our twitter page!). A huge thanks also goes out to our coaches: head coach Spencer Mains and assistant coaches David Senninger and Eric Payne. Stay tuned for a full season review article coming to the website shortly, and from all of us at Stanford Hockey: we’ll see you next year!