Matadors’ ice hockey splits two game weekend

Quentin+Abaya+%2815%29+shoots+the+puck+on+net+as+Jake+Nelson+%283%29+attempts+to+block+and+Jared+Bussell+%2833%29+attempts+to+stop+the+puck+from+going+in+Saturday+night+at+the+Iceoplex+in+Simi+Valley.+Photo+credit%3A+Solomon+Ladvienka
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Matadors’ ice hockey splits two game weekend

Quentin Abaya (15) shoots the puck on net as Jake Nelson (3) attempts to block and Jared Bussell (33) attempts to stop the puck from going in Saturday night at the Iceoplex in Simi Valley. Photo credit: Solomon Ladvienka

Quentin Abaya (15) shoots the puck on net as Jake Nelson (3) attempts to block and Jared Bussell (33) attempts to stop the puck from going in Saturday night at the Iceoplex in Simi Valley. Photo credit: Solomon Ladvienka

Quentin Abaya (15) shoots the puck on net as Jake Nelson (3) attempts to block and Jared Bussell (33) attempts to stop the puck from going in Saturday night at the Iceoplex in Simi Valley. Photo credit: Solomon Ladvienka

Quentin Abaya (15) shoots the puck on net as Jake Nelson (3) attempts to block and Jared Bussell (33) attempts to stop the puck from going in Saturday night at the Iceoplex in Simi Valley. Photo credit: Solomon Ladvienka

Solomon Ladvienka

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After coming off a 2-1 stand in Texas last weekend, the No. 12 Matadors retook home ice and squared off with No. 7 University of Denver and No. 9 BYU.

With playoff rankings on the line, these were two huge home games for the Matadors especially against higher ranked teams.

Captain Alex Reints was still sidelined due to a tight groin when the Matadors played the University of Denver Pioneers. Top goal scorer, Eli Berengut, got CSUN the early 1-0 lead on the power play.

“Coming off a dry streak out in Texas, it was super good to pop that one in,” Berengut said.

Penalties would be CSUN’s Achilles’ heel this go around as the Pioneers would notch the game at one at the beginning of the second period. Momentum started switching over to the Pioneer’s side as they scored two unanswered goals.

William Lesik would take matters into his own hands and score his first career goal with the team, and CSUN got the game tied at two. With Reints out, Assistant Captain Drew LaGaly, stepped into the leadership role and topped shelved the Pioneers’ goalie. CSUN skated into the third period with a 3-2 lead.

“We have to lead this team by example,” LaGaly said. “Same with Levi [Bolls] and the other captains, I felt that we all did a pretty good job.”

CSUN had a chance to close this out against a higher ranked opponent. As both teams approached the final twenty minutes of play, the Pioneers struck just minutes into the third period and were even at three.

CSUN’s penalties during the third period would catch up to them and they would surrender an additional three goals as their top enforcers had to watch from the penalty box. University of Denver would hang on for the win, 6-3.

“We didn’t close out the third period and had some mental lapses,” coach JP Gale said. “We totally collapsed and fell apart.”

Following to the third-period collapse, Reints rejoined the Matadors and they had a statement to prove against a No. 9 BYU Cougars.

Both teams were aggressive with the forecheck. After serving 10 minute misconducts and nearly being thrown out the night before, both Tereck Morales and John Michael Laurin had a huge impact on this game.

“This whole team is firing from all cylinders,” Morales said. “I can’t do anything without my teammates, and it’s great to get the puck moving around, especially after last night’s loss.”

Laurin gave CSUN the early lead and switched up the momentum after the night before. Tommy Pang gave the Matadors their second goal making the score 2-0.

“It was a good comeback after we didn’t play well or to our full potential last night,” Laurin said. “We fed off of the energy of the crowd, and we were in the same situation but we changed course and were playing well.”

In the second period BYU scored, making it a 2-1 game. CSUN’s Isaac Breault was set up from Quentin Abaya and the Matadors had a 3-1 cushion.

“We needed to step on the gas and finish this game,” Gale said. “We talked about keeping our focus and just keep shooting.”

The Matadors refused to see another third period lead get erased. Laurin shot from the point and Morales’ stick deflected the puck, giving CSUN a 4-2 advantage early in the third.

Both teams had members to the penalty box in the third and each team skated four on four. As both players from opposing teams were about to step out of the box, BYU would step out too soon, resulting in an additional two minutes in the penalty box for delay of game.

As CSUN went on the two-minute powerplay, LaGaly found himself scrapping for the puck down low and snuck it between the goalie’s five hole and the Matadors took a commanding 5-2 lead.

“Everyone played their hearts out, and everyone came together,” LaGaly said. “We finished the game off and made some adjustments in the locker room, refocused, came out hard and won the game.”

With just around four minutes left to play in regulation, Laurin pumped in his second goal of the night. The Matadors held on and got the job done, 6-2.

“Everyone chipped in and everyone said what they wanted to do,” said winning goaltender Brandon Kalvoda. “Being able to come in tonight and finish it off as we did, that was huge.”

With the WCHC playoffs looming around the corner, the Matadors travel to Cal State Fullerton, and return home over the weekend as they host San Jose State.