CSUN Hockey looks to shine at Nationals

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CSUN Hockey looks to shine at Nationals

Monique Muñiz

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The Cal State Northridge hockey team is looking to have its own miracle on ice, as the Matadors head to the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division III National Tournament for the first time in the club’s 39 years of existence, this Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla.

While CSUN has a few nationally ranked athletic programs, like the men’s volleyball team and the women’s water polo team, the hockey team is virtually unknown.

“I really wish more people knew about the team,” said junior assistant captain Chris Gale. “Hopefully this will get the school to really recognize us and give us more support in the following years.”

The Matadors did have a crowd that supported them this season, but they would like to see more people come out to the rink.

“The fan base is growing,” said goalie Ron Dierkes. “But still there is so many students at CSUN when I talk to them about the hockey team they have no idea that the school has a team.”

At the National Tournament, Northridge will compete in pool A, where they will face off against the Central Florida Knights, the Cal University of Pennsylvania Vulcans and Lansing Community College. The Matadors will have to win their pool in order to go into the semifinals and for a chance to advance to the Championship game.

In the regular season the Matadors finished 23-4 and third in Pacific Division III region, due to the offense they produced this year.

Chris Gale, who led Division III in scoring, finished the regular season with 64 goals, and 69 assists for a combined 133 points. Following him in second was teammate forward Anthony Kendryna with 111 points.

“It’s nice to be leading the nation (in scoring), but it helps having my line mates,” Chris Gale said. “It makes a big difference how I play and how much I am able to produce, so playing with them makes it much easier on me.”

Offensively the Matadors were explosive with 220 goals and only allowed their opponents to 106 goals.

As the Matadors netminder, Dierkes kept his team in games playing like a wall with 768 saves and went 18-5.

“I had my ups and downs this year and I noticed that usually the better the team plays the better I play,” Dierkes said. “We feed off each other and right now I feel good and can’t wait to get out there.”

The Matadors have already played two rounds of playoffs, where they went 3-1. In the Pacific College Hockey Association playoffs in South Lake Tahoe, CSUN won against Fresno State 7-4, but lost to College of the Canyons 4-6.

The top two seeded teams in the Pacific region automatically got into the National Tournament, while those seeded 3-10 had to play in the ACHA Regional’s in Las Vegas, Nev. CSUN had to win two games in order to go to Nationals. The Matadors accomplished that by beating South Dakota State 8-4 and Iowa State 7-6.

“We are looked at as the underdog, and I think we are here to prove everyone wrong.” said freshman forward Anthony Annese.

The Matadors first opponent will be Central Florida (23-8), who will be entering its fifth straight ACHA National Tournament. The Knights are ranked second in the South Region. James Stauffer has 23 goals and 49 assist and in goal for the Knights is Russell Pitman with a 12-4 record and 387 saves.

The Vulcans (24-0) are ranked number one in the Atlantic Region leading with 48 points. For the Vulcans, Ryan Jones has 35 points and 45 assists. In net they have two stellar goalies, Josh Gilliam, who went 13-0, and Shane Bickar, who went 10-0. They combined for 1360 minutes of play and 496 saves.

Lansing Community College (15-8) placed sixth in the North Region with 36 points. This is also the Stars first trip to the ACHA Nationals. Robert Cathcart has 25 goals and 21 assists. In net for the Stars is Travis Morgan (9-4) he faced 460 shots and made 398 saves.

“We’re confident with the guys we have going in,” said captain JP Gale. “We have the top two scorers in the country, a solid goalie, and two very good lines and I think we will be successful.”

For scores and highlights of the National Tournament matches you can go to www.fgcuicehockey.com