There was a tough test to start off the season for the CSUN Ice Hockey team after winning just one game out of the four games set at the Boise State University Hockey Showcase this past weekend.
Following a dominant season last year and reaching regionals, the Matadors are hit with a tougher schedule this year. Their first battle was against a powerhouse hockey team in Utah State, who reached Nationals last season.
Garrett Heftye of CSUN got the Matadors on the board midway through the first period, and there was plenty of scoring to follow.
“It felt good to get that first goal to give our team momentum,” Heftye said. “We are going to be one of the toughest teams in the west to beat this season.”
The two teams would exchange scores all the way throughout the game leading up to the final minutes of the final period. One of the newest Matadors, Matt Hoover, recorded his first career CSUN goal. Shorthanded goals from Cameron Rorick and John Blascoe kept CSUN in the game.
“My first ACHA DII goal in the season opener was huge to me,” Hoover said. “This is the highest level of hockey I’ve ever played at, and getting that first one early in the season sets the tone for the rest of the year. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish as a team this year and how far we’ll go.”
Matador goal scorers, Eli Berengut and Alex Reints would score goals themselves to keep CSUN within striking distance during the seesaw affair. The Matadors answered but fell just short, 8-6.
“Leading Utah State for most of the game and actually dictating play was a huge step for us,” head coach JP Gale said. “I think we started to get some confidence in our ability as a team.”
Friday afternoon, CSUN got their first win. A two-goal performance from Cameron Rorick, secured a 2-1 victory for the Matadors over the Montana Tech Diggers.
“It was a great team effort to get those two goals against Montana Tech,” Rorick said. “The goals were vital for our team to win the game and I am thankful for my team helping me get those goals.”
Behind a solid and dominant performance from Vincent Sepe, CSUN saw the Diggers take an early 1-0 lead, but Sepe and the Matadors buckled down and were able to score two unanswered goals with the second coming late in the third, giving CSUN the win.
“Eli Berengut made a great faceoff win and I capitalized off of it,” Rorick said. “Matt Hoover had put the other it near the net and I finished it off.”
The 1-1 Matadors couldn’t celebrate their first win of the season too long as another hard challenge was set for a Saturday afternoon showdown against Weber State.
This game was another back and forth game, as the two teams exchanged hits for hits but Weber State jumped out to a 2-0 start following a five-minute major penalty given to John Michael Laurin of CSUN.
“The five-minute major was retaliation to someone taking my helmet off,” Laurin said. “Our mindset was that we were not giving up. We were going to keep playing a physical game and dominate 5 on 5.”
The Matadors came within one goal as Quentin Abaya scored on the power play in the second period, but Weber State answered with a third goal in the third period and held off the strong push from CSUN to finish the game.
Sunday morning, the team was back in action against the University of Washington.
The Matadors came out of the gates as the aggressors but were unable to score a goal. Odd-man rushes for the Huskies led to four separate goals. The Matadors trailed 4-0 until Hoover got CSUN within striking distance.
“We knew we didn’t have a great first period,” Hoover said. “During the intermission, we said we wanted to come out hard in the second period and turn the game around.”
Laurin and Berengut scored within 44 seconds of each other in the middle of the third to cut the deficit to one. But the Huskies took matters into their own hands and scored the final two goals, giving the University of Washington the 6-3 victory.
“It was a pretty good weekend, despite losing three games,” Gale said. “If we can learn from our mistakes and improve on our successes, this could be another great year. We got a lot of compliments from Boise State and the elite teams there on our performance, so that’s something we should be proud of.”
The Matadors return home for their home opener this weekend against Grand Canyon University. The teams met last season and CSUN was the victor.