Preseason hockey is officially in the rear view mirror, as the defending West Coast Hockey Conference champion Matadors retake the ice.
The 2016-2017 Matadors completed their best season since 2011 posting a record of 25 wins, eight defeats and one loss in overtime. The Matadors earned a spot in the championship game and defeated San Diego State to win their first ever WCHC trophy.
“We have a really good core coming back,” head coach JP Gale said. “Our goal is to defend the title. It’s going to be a much tougher route this year, and everybody is much improved but it is going to be a lot of tight games throughout this season.”
That success also earned them a spot in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II’s Regional Playoffs as the No. 10 seed. The Matadors would fall in the first round to Metro State University, Denver.
The son and father coaching duo of JP and Steve Gale retake the helm for the Matadors. JP is entering his eighth season as head coach and father Steve will be on the sidelines for his twelfth season with the program.
Senior Captain, Alex Reints retakes the ice for his final season with the Matadors and hopes for continual success as this being his final ride with the program.
“We got to stay on top,” Reints said. “We have teams gunning for us; we know that. With this being the fifth year, it is emotional but I’m going to do as much as I can for the team and lead this team as best as I can.”
As key departures for CSUN left the Gales questioning at the beginning of the offseason, new recruits are needed to fill the holes of those who departed. A strong recruiting class and incoming freshmen to CSUN will certainly help out.
“I absolutely love it,” freshman defenseman Tom Dobrokhot said. “It’s totally different than anything I’ve ever played in before. It’s much more professional, and it’s been a blast. My goal is to help out the team as best as possible.”
Dobrokhot, a native to the San Fernando Valley, has played at Simi Valley’s Iceoplex for numerous years with the junior hockey programs offered there. Scoring goals and winning games on home ice is something Dobrokhot is familiar with at the Icoplex, as CSUN calls the Icoplex home.
Rival foe, Long Beach State paid a visit to the Iceoplex Saturday night as CSUN played their only preseason match against the 49ers.
Early success against 49ers’ goalie in the first period helped put the Matadors up 2-1 following goals from Reints and last year’s top goal scorer, junior winger Eli Berengut. Physicality is a strong-suit between these programs and though the final score was 6-3 with Long Beach State defeating the Matadors, the rough and tough play from both teams is a sure indication of what is to be expected when these two meet later in the year.
The Matadors will rely on players such as Berengut, forward Quentin Abaya, and newly-awarded assistant captain, defenseman John Michael Laurin to make plays for CSUN this upcoming season.
“We were working out together and getting the chemistry back together with the guys throughout the summer,” Abaya said. “Some goals would be for us to go farther in the season than we did last year, and be the number one team in California again.”
CSUN has a quick test early in the season as they are set to face off some of the ACHA Division II’s toughest opponents this upcoming weekend.
“We’re going to get tested early on,” Gale said. “We’re going to play some of the best right away, and I think that’ll give us a pretty good idea where we are going to fit in the rest of the year and what we can do to improve.”
The Matadors will have a four-game weekend set that starts Thursday night against Utah State, followed by Montana Tech, Weber State and rounding out the weekend against the University of Washington Sunday morning.
All games can be heard live on the Matador Sports Network on the Matadors’ YouTube station.