February 12, 2017
South Lake Tahoe, CA
The UCLA Bruins hockey team caps off the 2016-17 season with the team’s second ever conference championship, and first since 1999. Not many outside of the program could have foreseen such a drastic turnaround for the Bruins. Last season, UCLA missed the playoffs after finishing last in the conference during the regular season. However, the team would rebuild quickly this offseason with a strong recruiting class as well as the hiring of a new coach, Tyler Maxwell, to help guide the team. The transition was not so smooth early on. The season got off to a rough start for the Bruins, splitting a home and home with Chapman, dropping both games at home to conference runner – up University of Washington, and losing both games at home to the University of Oregon as well. However, the team would find their stride in early December after beating USC in overtime at the Staples Center. That game marked a turning point for the team as they would go on to win 7 straight and 11 of their next 12. That streak included 2 more wins against rival USC to bring the Crosstown Cup back to Westwood for the first time since 2013.
Coming into playoffs as the 2 seed, UCLA would face off with University of California, Berkeley in the conference semi-finals. Entering the third period down 3-2, Lathem Wojno would quickly find the back of the net to tie the game up at 3. Minutes later, sophomore Peter Katz would cut in behind the defense and finish off the breakaway to put the Bruins up 4-3. An empty net goal with 25 seconds left secured the team’s place in the conference finals the next morning. The #1 seed Washington would beat USC in the other semi-final, setting the stage for the top two seeds to meet again with the conference title and an automatic bid to regionals on the line. The final would be one of extreme momentum shifts. The Bruins would come out flying, going up 2-0 early in the first, only to see the lead slip away by the middle of the second. Another two-goal spurt put UCLA up 4-2 with 6 minutes left to play, however Washington would once again come back with two unanswered goals to force a sudden death overtime for the title. 5 minutes into overtime, Senior Brandon Hsiao fired one top right past the goalie’s glove to secure the championship for the Bruins and a spot in the West Regional tournament in Colorado in two weeks.