Gauchos light up NAU on the ice

UCSB scored a season-high 16 goals on Saturday.

UCSB's Travis Noe waits for a face-off

UCSB Ice Hockey wrapped up its final home stand with an offensive showcase, as twelve different Gauchos scored goals in blowing out Northern Arizona University 16-1 in Oxnard Saturday night.

With confidence soaring after two win in the previous three nights, the Gauchos lit up the stat sheet, as 17 of the 18 skaters notched a point. Billy Hahn, Christian Riva, Sam Fetter, and Eric Swanstrom each scored two goals, and three Gauchos, Travis Noe (1 goal, 3 assists), Nate Wellin (1 goal 3 assists), and Doug Dunbar (1 goal, 4 assists), added four or more points. Aaron Carlough scored NAU’s lone goal on an assist by Max Kohler.

“It was definitely one of the best games we’ve played all season,” said coach Gabe Mosse. “We’ve been looking for scoring from lines other than our top line. Now, we have three lines that can all put the puck in the net. We’re playing our best hockey when we need to be.”

The Gauchos found solid production from each line, but their first line of Noe, Hahn, and Wellin combined for four goals and six assists, and controlled the puck the entire time they were on the ice.

“I would say that our top line is close to, if not the best line in the league,” said Mosse.

“That first line really is the production line,” said Wiskel. “Every time they’re out there to control the puck in the offensive zone and get shots on net.”

UCSB clears the puck

The bleachers were full and the crowd was loud

UCSB’s newfound depth could not have been predicted at the start of the program’s inaugural season, as many players feared that they would not have enough skaters to compete for a full sixty minutes. Now, it’s hard to find a weak spot on any of the lines that the Gauchos put on the ice.

“With the addition of Billy Hahn, who came back from studying abroad and joined us last week, it allowed us to change the lines around,” said team founder and defensemen Jake Wiskel. “We now have four really solid lines.”

Hahn was not the only skater that added depth to the Gauchos’ skating lines. Senior center Bryce Welke returned to the ice just a month removed from breaking his leg and contributed face-off wins and an assist, and Sam Fetter worked his way up from the practice squad to receiving regular playing time, which paid off with two goals in each of his last two games.

“It’s a pretty amazing transformation our team has gone through,” said Welke.

“It’s sick that everybody is doing it, and not having the first line carrying us,” said Wiskel. “They’re propelling the rest of the team to work hard and skate with passion.”

The Gauchos clinched a playoff spot with Saturday's win.

The Gauchos received an outstanding performance from their goalie, Ryan Baird, who saved 27 of 28 shots, stopped a few breakaways, and vastly outshone NAU’s goalie Luke Eckert, who managed 23 saves on 39 shots.

“Ryan is a pretty exceptional goalie,” said Mosse. “He played outstanding. He didn’t face a lot of shots, but sometimes that’s almost harder as a goaltender, because sometimes all of the sudden they get two or three quick shots off and you have to mentally get back in it. He did a great job of seeing the puck and controlling the rebounds.”

While it quickly became obvious that UCSB had the upper hand on the ice, the raucous crowd filled with crazed Gaucho supporters bussed in from I.V. played their own part in giving the Gauchos a boost in the mental game.

“You could tell that some of the stuff they were chanting was affecting the other team,” said Wiskel.

“The crowd was really key,” said Mosse. “We love having fans out there, and Santa Barbara fans are the best. They were loud, they were rowdy, and in typical Gaucho form. It gave us a big boost in confidence and definitely a big mental edge. Northern Arizona was not at all prepared for as many people that were there. I was so pleased with our fans. We’d love to get them to keep coming out.”

The Gauchos’ regular season ends on Friday with an away game at Cal State Northridge, with playoff implications riding on the outcome of the match. UCSB clinched a playoff spot with its three wins this weekend, but could lock up an essential number five seed with a win and secure a game against Davis. A loss would set up a rematch against Northridge, something the Gauchos are looking to avoid, as Northridge blew out UCSB 13-2 last Saturday.

“This was a really big weekend for us,” said Welke. “It was basically determining whether we were getting into the playoffs or even have a shot. Everybody had to come out skating hard, and I think that because of those first two wins we came out with a lot more confidence. And when our team is playing with confidence, we’re always playing sharper.”

“We have a good chance against them because we’re playing really well,” said Wiskel. “But they did smoke us last time. It’s going to be a tough game. If we play disciplined, not getting penalties, keep our feet moving, we can skate with anybody.”

Mosse was quick to point out that in the last match against Northridge, they were playing without Noe and Hahn, and this time around his team looks much improved.

“Last time, we were not mentally prepared for the game,” said Mosse. “It was our first game back from winter break and we were a little rusty. We were a little nervous and gave Northridge a little too much respect and they walked all over us. But like I said before, we’re playing our best hockey, and it’s going to be a really physical, competitive game. I think we can come in and do some damage.”

Fortunately for the sake of competitive hockey, there is no love lost between these two rivals.

“Our team and their team do not get along,” said Mosse. “They don’t like us, but that makes it a good rivalry.”