After a disappointing performance in the ACHA Regionals two weeks ago, the CSUN men’s hockey team looked to close out its 2007-2008 season on a high note. Northridge was out for redemption in the PCHA playoffs this past weekend. With wins on Friday and Saturday, the Matadors faced a familiar foe in the Championship game: San Diego State University.
This was the third meeting for the two teams. During the regular season, Northridge lost 5-1 on Jan. 26 and 12-1 on Feb. 1. On Sunday, the Aztecs (23-1-0) proved once again they have the Matadors’ number, with a dominating 12-2 victory. This was the second consecutive PCHA title for San Diego State. With only one loss on the season, the Aztecs were unstoppable.
“The longer a team goes on a streak, the harder they are to beat,” Northridge junior captain J.P. Gale said. “Their overall speed and conditioning is better than any team we have faced.”
CSUN got to the championship game by defeating California State University, Sacramento, 6-2 on Friday, and Santa Clara University, 7-2 on Saturday.
Friday marked the third time Northridge has defeated Sacramento this season. The Hornets got on the board first with a power-play goal by Malachi Mahan at 16:20. With a little less than five minutes left in the period, CSUN tied the game on a goal by junior defenseman Clark Torres. Junior forward Derek Van der Wal and senior defenseman Richard Pulliam were credited with the assist.
Four minutes into the second period, freshman forward Chris Gale scored his team-leading 47th goal of the season. Just 46 seconds later, Sacramento’s Raymond Gsell tied the game at two. The Matadors regained the lead at 15:43 with a goal by Van der Wal.
Chris Gale opened the third period with a power-play goal to give Northridge a 4-2 advantage. Junior forward Jason Bobich was credited with the assist. Bobich then scored the Matadors’ third of four unanswered goals at 4:21. After Sacramento’s Sam Danovich was penalized for roughing, J.P. Gale closed the game with a power-play goal with 34 seconds remaining on the clock.
Junior goalie Robert Beltrami finished the game with 44 saves, while Sacramento’s Christian Walsh stopped 32 shots.
On Saturday, the Matadors took on Santa Clara University (9-11-0), a team it had not faced this season.
The Broncos skated to an early lead with a goal by Gary Nissen at 14:03. One minute later, Matador junior forward Ryan Jackson scored his first of three goals on the night. Jackson had a relatively quiet offensive season. Despite being the fifth highest scorer on the team, Jackson only had seven goals entering Saturday’s game. Two weeks ago, Jackson started playing on the same line as Bobich and Chris Gale. The switch seemed to work.
“Being able to play with Chris and Jason was great,” Jackson said. ” They really understand the game, and it’s easier to make a play with them.”
With one minute left in the first period, Santa Clara’s Nick Casini scored the team’s second, and last, goal of the night to make it 2-2 going into the first intermission.
The Matadors opened the second period on a power play and Jackson took advantage. At 19:17, he scored his second goal of the night, giving CSUN a 3-2 lead. Chris Gale scored the next two goals, one at 8:29 and the other one minute later. J.P. Gale assisted on both goals, while Jackson was also credited with an assist on the second.
With 1:26 left in the second period, senior forward Nikita Behm scored his 22nd goal of the season, giving the Matadors a 6-2 advantage.
Jackson iced the victory with a power-play goal at 11:32. The duo of Bobich and Chris Gale recorded the assists.
With the game ending at 11 p.m., Northridge only had 11 and a half hours until its championship meeting with San Diego State.
CSUN took an early lead with a goal from Behm, but that would be the team’s last score until two minutes were left in the game. Nine different Aztecs scored, including three players with multi-goal games. SDSU put up 11 unanswered goals, until Bobich’s goal at 2:05 in the third period.
“We got off to a quick start,” Behm said. “We just kind of let down and got frustrated with ourselves.”
The teams combined for 23 penalties-13 for CSUN and 10 on SDSU.
“They took some bad penalties and we retaliated,” Behm said. “It got more into a grudge match than a hockey game.”
The most severe penalty was called on J.P. Gale. At 19:44 in the third period, Gale was sent to the box for spearing.
“He went down screaming in pain,” Gale said. “It was a great acting job.”
Gale was shocked at the referee’s call. He said he has never taken a spearing penalty in his hockey career.
“If I was going to be taking a five minute major, I would have really hurt the kid,” Gale said. “I know better than to take a penalty like that.”
Northridge finished the season with a 17-9-0 record. Chris Gale led the team in scoring with 50 goals and 35 assists in just 25 games. Bobich finished with 20 goals and 34 assists. Rounding out the top three was Behm with 23 goals and 28 assists.