San Jose, CA (U-WIRE) -- Head coach Ron Glasow has been the behind the bench since the inception of the San Jose State University men's hockey club. He has witnessed the metamorphosis of the team and its players for nearly 15 years.
This year, the Spartans will wrap up the 2004-05 regular season against the University of Southern California at the Logitech Ice Center on Friday and Saturday night.
When the final horn sounds, Glasow will watch eight key veterans raise their sticks in the air to salute the hometown fans for one last time.
Ray Kellam, Nate Panek, Adam Dekeyral, Mason Nave, Lonny Lovins, Chris Lee, Joe Best and Jon Barney have all played a pivotal part in the club's current 20-4-2 record, Glasow said.
"Everybody on this team - it's a great bunch of guys," Glasow said. "It's not only the best team San Jose State has ever had, but this is one of the best teams in the country."
Kellam is SJSU's captain, having donned the 'C' on his blue and gold sweater for two of his five seasons.
Glasow said Kellam has always been a driving force.
"He joined the team as a young kid and I was told he has a great attitude, is intense and a talented hockey player," Glasow said. "And from day one he's always been a leader, even as a freshman."
Lonny Lovins has been with the team for six seasons, one of two players to make it to the postseason twice with SJSU, once in 2000 and again in 2002.
Glasow said Lovins has paid his dues and has improved each year.
"Now he's one of the team's top players offensively and a leader also," Glasow said. "He's great in the locker room; always speaking up and the guys really look up to him."
Lovins' longtime teammate Jon Barney is an enforcer, always put his body on the line, Glasow said.
"I'm willing to break every bone in my body to make sure my team is safe," Barney said. "Broken shoulder, broken hand, shattered elbows - the pain is only temporary."
Glasow said Barney is irreplaceable.
"The way he hits and the way he comes across to the crowd, he's a great young man and his presence on the ice will be missed," Glasow said. "There will never be another Barney."
Team president Nate Panek has played defense with the Spartans for three seasons.
Panek said practices and games are fun, with all the crazy stuff that happens on the ice.
"I'll miss going out there and being with the guys," Panek said. "I want to continue playing after I graduate, but it won't be the same."
Chris Lee has been a strong center for the Spartans' second line Glasow said.
"We needed size and strength at center and he's always provided that," Glasow said.
Lee said he tries to lead by example.
"I try to do the little things to help the others get better, knowing in the end it will all pay off," Lee said.
Forward Mason Nave has led the team in scoring for three seasons and currently leads the team in assists with 23 in 19 games played.
Glasow said Nave has been the perfect first-line center.
"He's a great passer and playmaker," Glasow said. "There's the guy who can bury the puck, and Nave's the one to get it to him."
Adam Dekeyral joined the team midway through the 2003-04 season, having switched allegiance from SJSU's cross-town rival Palmer College West.
Glasow said acquiring the 29-year-old forward was a big bonus.
"He's the oldest guy on the team, yet he has logged more ice time than any other player," Glasow said. "He has solidified our power play at the point."
Goaltender Joe Best has gone 8-0 while posting a 2.37 goals against average and a .905 save percentage this season.
Glasow said Best is tough mentally and is able to get the job done.
"You have to have leadership from the goal-line out and he provides that and he comes through in the clutch," Glasow said.
The experience and leadership from the aforementioned veterans combined with the skill and commitment from the younger players has come together to create one of the best teams, Glasow said.
The Spartans are currently No. 4 in the west, qualifying them for a national berth.
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