BERKELEY - The California Golden Bears came into this season with hopes of building off last year's successes. After a grueling seven months, they were able to do just that, heading into playoffs with an 18-4 record which is good enough for the 1st seed in the PAC-8 South Division and 20th in the region.
Led by Senior Captain Michael Leone, who finished the regular season with 45 points in 22 games, the Golden Bears have one goal in mind: the championship. "Regular season recognition is nice and all, but all of our focus is on playoffs you know," said Leone. "Last year's finals are still fresh on our minds. We worked really hard to get where we are today, and we just have to finish the job."
Only missing Steven Bagley from the 2018 season, the Golden Bears have rostered an experienced core of players, with a few key additions in Matt Chorlian, Jack Gibbons, and Max Brownlee. Younger guys like Sophomore Gabriel Giammarco have also taken steps forward, giving California much deeper squad, well-suited to make a run this year.
Entering playoffs, Cal's top line of Michael Leone (45 points), Gabriel Giammarco (40 points), and Delfino Varela (30 points) have the lion's share of goal contributions, and the team has relied heavily on their goal-scoring production throughout the season. In order to be a real threat, Cal will need more secondary scoring.
On the backend, Jeffrey Chen (20 points) and Matt Chorlian (10 points) have provided some stability to Cal's run-and-gun offense. With career years from Goaltenders Sami Morse (92.5 sv%) and Ethan Crick (91.5 sv%), scoring on this Golden Bear squad will be no easy task.
As the first seed in the PAC-8 South, Cal will take on the University of Washington in their first game on February 8th. These two teams have not faced off this year, but when they played in 2018, the Golden Bears were victorious in both meetings, with scores of 7-1 and 2-1. The Huskies are a big team, so Cal will need to use their speed and avoid losing possession in the corners to emulate last season's success against Washington.
If they are to advance, Cal's toughest competition would undoubtedly be North 1 seed Boise State, North 2 seed Eastern Washington University, or North 3 seed Oregon. Although Golden Bears have yet to face Boise or EWU in club history, these two teams hold the 4th and 18th spots in the region respectively. Both programs play a heavy brand of hockey, and would match up well against Cal's small, but quick team. With regards to the 11th-ranked Oregon Ducks, the Golden Bears split games with them in the regular season, with scores of 5-4 and 0-2 in early November. Both competitions were back-and-forth, hard fought affairs; if they take each other on, it will be a fun one to watch.
Regardless of their competition, California wants to erase the failures of last season. They have one thing in mind: winning.