CSUN has a hockey team? asked recent graduate Aaron Davitian. And he was probably wasn’t the only person who was shocked to hear that information.
But despite being unknown by some of the student body, the team is strong.
The Matadors finished the ’06-’07 season with a 13-7 record and placed fifth in the Division 3 Pacific region. That placed them higher in the standings than the College of the Canyons Cougars, recent rival of the Matadors and a strong offensive power.
The team played outstanding in the ’05-’06 season as well. At one point it was 16-1 and was ranked 6th in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Nationals. A large hiccup hit the team, however, when its wins were taken away because of ineligible players and fell to last place in the division.
The ACHA rules state that participating players must carry a grade point average of 2.0 and take at least nine units. A few players fell below that requirement and, as a result, every game in which they played was ruled as a loss.
The wins were taken away late enough in the season that not only was the team ranked nationally, but travel arrangements for the nationals were already made by most of the team.
“It crushed me personally,” said Keyan Safyari, a forward on the team. “It was just devastating.”
Safyari was second on the team in scoring, with 16 goals and 22 assists in the ’06-’07 season. He was looking forward to nationals, as it would likely be his last chance to play in the tournament before graduation.
“Basically, we knew we could win it all,” Safyari said. “And to get that news was just heartbreaking.”
Head Coach Sean McLynn agreed.
“Even without the players that had grade problems,” McLynn said, “we still probably would’ve been able to take nationals. It was tough.”
Despite the ACHA ruling, the Matadors came back in’06 -’07 not just with a strong winning record, but academically as well.
CSUN had two players named on the ACHA Academic All-American team, which requires a player to be at least a junior and have a 3.2 GPA or higher. Left wing Ryan Jackson maintained a 3.4 GPA while scoring 10 goals and four assists. Five of those goals were on power plays.
Also named to the team was center Vincent DePalma, who had a 3.24 GPA while notching two goals and an assist.
“I was really excited about that,” DePalma said. “It was a nice accomplishment for me to be noticed, not only for my academic ability, but also my athletics.”
Part of the team’s success last season was its presence in net. Luis Miguel Aceves was the team’s star goalie and posted an impressive 2.89 goals against average. For his stellar play in goal, the ACHA named Aceves top goaltender on the All-West Region team.
Unfortunately, a new season usually brings changes in team rosters. Aceves won’t be returning for the ’07-’08 season, but the Matadors are more than confident in the team’s returning goalie Geronimo Cebrero. He had a strong presence between the pipes last season with a goals against average of 3.5 and 180 more minutes played than Aceves.
“His game has really been stepping up,” McLynn said. “Geronimo’s gotten a lot more confident in net, so he’s going to help us out.”
The Matadors will also lose Safyari, who played for about two and a half years and was a member of CSUN’s top scoring line. That leaves at least one void to fill on offense.
Even with losing key players from last season, McLynn is optimistic about the roster for the upcoming season.
“We have a good core of players that are coming back with a couple of nice additions coming in,” McLynn said. “And we’ve gotten a good response from new players that we haven’t seen yet that are looking to try out. So that’s looking pretty good.”
Another hurdle for the Matadors this season is the schedule.
“We’re in the Southern California division that’s probably going to be the most competitive. We’ve got a tough schedule ahead of us,” McLynn said.
Although College of the Canyons is now in a separate division, it will play CSUN twice. Other teams include Northern Arizona University, which finished last season at 14-8 with one tie and an overtime loss. CSUN also faces San Diego State University with an 11-6 record, and UC Irvine with a 10-9 record.
Open tryouts were held at the Matadors’ home ice rink at the Valley Ice Center in Panorama City on August 25 and 28. McLynn expects to finalize the roster in the next week.
The Matadors will begin their season on September 29 on the road against Redlands. The team will play seven home games this season, with the first on October 13 against UC San Diego.
Do you have more to say than a comment? Want any feedback from the writer? Story ideas? Head to The Gripevine.