The CSUN’s ice hockey team went through a tough start as the team got back to an even 5-5 on the season following a three-game set this past week.
The defending L.A. Kings College Cup champions took the ice at Staples Center Wednesday night to defend its crown and faced off with Cal Lutheran University. Eli Berengut had a hat trick and the team skated into the weekend by defeating the Kingsmen 7-4 in the first round of the Kings College Cup tournament.
“It felt great finally getting the first hat trick of the year [for me],” Berengut said. “It was a good really fast paced game. We decided to dig hard, put the puck in the net and ended up winning the game.”
Berengut scored his first goal of the game in the opening period, but the Matadors trailed 2-1 after the first period.
“It’s always tough playing there,” starting goal-tender Vincent Sepe said. “You don’t have a warmup, or a dressing room; it’s all over the place.”
CSUN pulled away in the second period after Berengut scored two goals in the second period.
The Matadors also had goals Evan Wright and Quentin Abaya and CSUN led 5-3 after the second period.
Matt Hoover and John Michael Laurin added goals for the Matadors in the third period.
“It was a good game to start,” head coach JP Gale said. “We were able to wear them down quickly and kind of establish ourselves and they didn’t have a deep enough bench to keep up with our speed and physicality. It was also good to see Eli [Berengut] to score. He’s always been a streaky goal score and it’s a good time for him to get hot.”
Saturday night, the Matadors faced San Diego State and fell on the road 5-3. The last time the two teams faced off, the Matadors defeated the Aztecs, claiming their first West Coast Hockey Conference title last season.
It was a family affair as Matadors’ Levi Bolls faced off with his brother Hayden.
“It’s always kind of a fun factor,” Bolls said. “We grew up playing against each other and these last four years were the first times we’ve ever played against each other. It’s kind of a fun atmosphere. I’m hitting him, he’s hitting me. It is a little weird going out there and getting the first bump against him, but other than that, it’s the same competition.”
The Matadors saw a one-goal lead quickly slip through their hands. Alex Reints pushed CSUN’s deficit to their victory by pumping in a fifth and the Matadors dropped to 4-5 on the season.
“We started strong,” Gale said. “We lost focus during the second and third [period]. They’re such a fast team, that if you make one-step mistakes and then you’re out of position, and they can make you pay for it. They finished on more of their chances than we missed on more of our chances, and it could of gone either way.”
The Matadors returned home Sunday night and defeated Long Beach State 3-2. Quinton Abaya scored for the third straight game in CSUN’s win.
“Q [Abaya] has been incredibly consistent,” Gale said. “He’s elevated his game so much and he’s learning from these older guys he’s playing with. He’s got these great tools, he’ just so tenacious, and he’s so fast. He’s a game breaker.”
CSUN moved to 5-5 on the season and will host Wyoming this Friday and Saturday night.
“Practice this week, we are going to focus on our special teams,” Gale said. “We just got done playing one of the best games we’ve had all season.”