The Trojans maintained their No. 1 ranking after their first loss of the season against No. 5 Cal, 6-7 and redeemed themselves with a win, 17-8, against No. 12 UCI.
Saturday afternoon, the Trojans faced off in an intense battle with the Bears from up north. Cal started the game off strong with a shot from the post by 2-meter man Nikos Delagrammatikas in the first two minutes of the period. USC came back 18 seconds later to tie the game 1-1 with a shot by junior driver Hannes Daube.
This back and forth would continue throughout the rest of the game with each team refusing to let separation materialize. During the second period, Cal attacker Jake Stone scored first giving Cal a 1-2 lead. USC would come back with two goals from senior 2-meter man Jake Ehrhardt and Daube, making the game 3-2. With 8 seconds left in the second period, Delagrammatikas would strike again for the Bears, tying up the game 3-3.
The second half started off with a bang, with two saves from USC senior goalie Nic Porter, who was so elated he even kissed the ball after a save. The Trojans would tie up the score 4-4, but the Bears would come back in the last 36 seconds of the third to go up 5-4.
The fourth period started off strong with USC junior driver Ashworth Molthen tying up the score 5-5. No less than two minutes later, Cal’s offense came back with a shot during power play and a 5-meter penalty shot, the Bears now leading 7-5. Despite a final shot from Erhardt, USC couldn’t tie up the game to play for overtime. Cal’s ability to press USC’s centers far out, and the 20 saves of junior goalie Adrian Weinberg hindered the Trojans ability to optimize scoring opportunities.
Despite the loss, USC did well defensively. Porter had a stellar performance, with 3 steals and 12 saves. As a team, USC had 12 steals that led to pivotal turnovers throughout the course of the game.
“Yeah, I mean last time we played them, they scored 11, this time they only scored seven so there’s definitely an improvement there which is great to see you know, but you know still, there was a couple of defensive mistakes” said Porter.
Head coach Marko Pintaric had only good things to say about the team, “It was good, you know our boys really wanted it, they played it with a lot of heart. I probably should have played more players, you know, so we will analyze and watch the tape again, but I think intensity was good, desire was there definitely. You know you can’t take anything away from these boys. But you know we’re going to watch the game, reassess and come stronger next game and next the next is tomorrow. It’s gonna be a tough game because you’re tired.”
However, offensively, the team fell short executing shots on power plays, only making 3 out of 15 attempted shots on goal.
“Offensively way, way too good stack up surely to have this type of percentage. And, you know, the way I saw things from the bench, it looked like we had a couple of point blank opportunities that we passed, we didn’t want to take. And again, we were holding onto that ball a little too long and 6 on 5 is a little quicker and look we missed some real easy opportunities. So you know, so this is where you win or lose the games. Games like this six on five, five on six. There were three out of seven. And this is something that you know, that usually five or six difference was to kill the opponent up to 30% or 30%. So that’s pretty much where we lost the game.” said Pintaric.
Although tired from battle, the Trojans would come back strong against No. 12 UCI with a 17-8 win in Irvine.
Senior driver Jacob Mercep and Molthen started the game off strong with two shots on goal, leading to a 2-0 advantage over the Anteaters to start off the first period. The barrage of shots from these two would progress throughout the game with Mercep contributing five more goals and Molthen adding three more.
This game initially held a similar atmosphere to the previous game, both teams trading goals back and forth.
During the second period when the Trojans made their move, shots from Molthen, Mercep, Chris Sturtevant and Marcus Longton spurred the Trojans to a 7-3 lead.
The Anteaters tried to make their way back during the third period with goals from Tyler Padua and Dylan Patist, but it wasn’t enough to catch up to the Trojans, and the third period ended 11-7.
USC redshirt freshman goalie Blake Jackson made his debut with eight saves to help keep the Anteaters scoring percentage low.
USC point powerhouses Daube, Mercep, Ehrhardt and Molthen were key contributors to the six-goal onslaught during the beginning of the fourth period. Mercep matched his season high of five goals, and Daube has now scored in nine straight games. Ehrhardt and Molthen have each scored in six straight games.
USC would end the last period of the weekend with three back-to-back goals from Chris Agliozzo, Carson Kranz and Jake Carter, who scored with one second left in the game.
USC hits the road next weekend with a visit to Long Beach State at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17.