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UCLA club hockey narrowly slips in West Coast championship game

Members of UCLA club ice hockey gather on the ice to shake hands with the opposing team after the team’s loss to Grand Canyon University on Sunday. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Amelie Ionescu

Feb. 13, 2023 1:27 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 14 at 10:06 p.m.

Nine seconds separated the Bruins and a repeat of history.

Leading by one goal heading into the third period of the West Coast Hockey Conference championship game, UCLA club ice hockey dropped a 3-2 decision against Grand Canyon University on Sunday at The Cube Ice and Entertainment Center. In the two teams’ prior matchups, the blue and gold had emerged victorious by one goal in overtime.

Nevertheless, junior goalie Brendan Klim said he was proud of his team.

“Everyone gave it their all,” Klim said. “Everyone down and up the lineup put all their effort into it.”

Despite a down-to-the-wire battle in the tournament final, the top-seeded blue and gold cruised through its first two matches against UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Heavily outshooting both opponents, the Bruins outscored their opponents 9-3 across the two contests, including shutting out the Beach.

But for the first time in the tournament, UCLA was outshot on Sunday. Both teams started off with a slow first period, with neither team getting a power play or a goal. Nevertheless, the Bruins notched more shots than their opponents through the opening frame.

“The first period we made a great effort,” said coach Griffin McCarty. “There’s a couple chances I thought we could capitalize, but we were happy. They came out strong entering the second. We were able to weather the storm.”

Slow starts and an inability to finish games have plagued the Bruins’ season, according to McCarthy, and both made an appearance Sunday. Nevertheless, the team was able to snag control over the second half, capitalizing on two opportunities.

Sophomore forward Alex Moroz notched both of the blue and gold’s goals, with the first being a wraparound shot that slid between bodies and the second off a pass from sophomore defender Geoffrey Xu that Moroz was able to put away.

(Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)
Sophomore forward Alex Moroz passes the puck. Moroz scored both of the Bruins’ goals Sunday. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

 

“I just tried to be aggressive,” Moroz said. “Just take what they were giving me on that first goal and then the second goal. Coaches were talking about getting to the net more and I just got to the net and won my battle.”

McCarthy added that Moroz’s goals demonstrated the plays and principles highlighted by his team in practice.

Alongside three goals, the second frame featured three penalties – two on the Antelopes and one on the Bruins. And while neither team was able to capitalize on the power play, Grand Canyon tied UCLA’s number of shots at 19 apiece with two and a half minutes left in the period.

The spike in aggression was due to heightened emotion in the period, according to McCarthy.

“It’s just the emotion, … it’s the energy, the adrenaline, the anxiety, the stress,” McCarthy said. “It was just when you get to a close game, … everyone was dialed in on both sides (and) wanted to do whatever they had to do to win.”

Entering the third period, the Antelopes trailed by one goal. But six seconds into its first and only power play of the period, Grand Canyon had equalized the score. Klim credited mental lapses and a need to improve on defense as part of what the Bruins will work on through the postseason.

(Amy Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Senior goalie Brendan Klim (right) sits in the goal while sophomore defenseman Samir Panwar (left) skates in the defensive zone. (Amelie Ionescu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Sticks clanged against the rink wall as Grand Canyon players cheered and shouted at stopped Bruin shots and attempted Antelopes shots. Meanwhile, the UCLA bench, although rowdy, couldn’t compare.

And with just over eight seconds left before overtime, the Antelopes found the back of the net. With the last-minute goal, Grand Canyon had pulled off its second last-second win in as many days to clinch the tournament title.

Despite losing the weekend crown, the Bruins will advance to regionals as regular-season champions of their conference. Moroz said in order to succeed on the national stage, consistency will be key.

“We just have to work on our killer instinct a little bit and just staying consistent throughout the whole 60 minutes and then I think it’ll be OK,” Moroz said.

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Amelie Ionescu | Sports senior staff
Ionescu was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats, and a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Ionescu was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats, and a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
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