With just under three minutes left in his competitive hockey career, Oregon Ducks captain Dougo Reese had one last thing he needed to do. So, with the Ducks leading Western Washington 6-4, Reese turned on Cam Bulger and dropped the gloves.
Reese finished the fight with his jersey mostly removed from his body, but appeared to get the better of Bulger. Both players were ejected, but there were no hard feelings in the fight.
“It’s just hockey players being hockey players,” Ducks coach Rich Salahor said.
Fellow senior Jeff Kraus, who developed something of a reputation as an enforcer early in his career, was impressed with Reese’s effort.
“That was an NHL-style fight. I enjoyed it,” Kraus said.
The Ducks scored two goals in a span of less than two minutes halfway through the first period to take the lead. The Ducks scored early in the second to go up 3-0, and while Western Washington scored two quick goals to keep the game close, the Ducks used a strong third period to pull away.
“I thought we played a really good game in the first and third periods,” Salahor said.
The Ducks nearly let the Vikings back into the game in the second period, and Salahor said that once again the culprit was penalty trouble.
“We don’t play well when we’re not five men on the ice,” he said.
Oregon lost to Western Washington the night before by a 5-4 score. A third-period goal gave the Vikings the lead, and the Ducks were unable to come back.
Kraus, one of two alternate captains, was upset with his team’s lack of effort in the third period.
“These guys need to get some heart,” Kraus said. “When you throw on the jersey, you can’t take anything for granted.”
Salahor said he knew the Ducks were the better team but felt as if they didn’t show up to play Friday night.
“Lackluster is about the best word I can come up with,” he said. “Effort was a bit of a problem for us tonight.”
The Ducks will lose a great deal of their seniors to graduation this year, with ten players hanging up the skates.
For the seniors who have spent the last four years of their lives wearing an Oregon sweater, it’s a bittersweet goodbye. For many, it’s the last time they will play hockey at a competitive level.
That doesn’t mean that they’re done with the game for good though.
Kraus said that after graduation he hopes hockey will continue to be a part of his life in some behind-the-scenes role as a youth hockey coach or scout.
“You reach a pinnacle in life where you’ve done something long enough and you just want to teach others,” Kraus said.
While the Ducks didn’t qualify for the Pac-8 tournament this year, Salahor said he was proud of the way his team played this year.
“Not making the Pac-8 tournament is basically just being out-scheduled,” he said. “That’s not a reflection of how our team plays. I’m very happy and proud of the way that our team played this year.”