From The Star News
By Phillip Brents
The San Diego State University men’s ice hockey team will take a two-game winning streak into the upcoming weekend’s PAC-8 home-and-home series against the UC San Diego Tritons after sweeping back-to-back non-conference games against Long Beach State University this past weekend.
The Aztecs topped the Forty-Niners, 12-4, in a road match on Friday then recorded a 5-0 shutout victory in front of a boisterous home ice crowd at the Kroc Center Ice Arena on Saturday. The two wins evened SDSU’s early season record at 2-2.
“The more games we play, the timing is getting better,” Aztec head coach Phil Bateman said.
Both games against Long Beach State were physical, with chippy play especially pronounced in Friday’s game after the visitors began to pull away from their opponent on the scoreboard. Saturday’s rematch was physical – and fast – from the onset. The Forty-Niners managed to keep pace with the hosts through two periods, but they were unable to sustain the high level of play through the end of the contest.
The first period was scoreless despite a 19-7 advantage in shots by the Aztecs. SDSU took a 1-0 lead 55 seconds into the second period on a goal by captain Derian Theberge, assisted by Cole Kosowski and Jack Anderson. Both teams continued to skate hard and the Aztecs were finally rewarded for their effort with a second goal with just 35.2 seconds to play in the period as Michael Eng scored in the scramble to the side of the LBSU net, assisted by Kosowski and Anderson.
SDSU took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. The late second period goal seemed to be a harbinger of things to come.
The Aztecs scored early into the third period to take a 3-0 lead and added two goals in the waning minutes as their opponent finally seemed to tire.
Eng (Jr. Reign) finished the game as the SDSU scoring leader with two goals. His first goal doubled the SDSU lead to 2-0, assisted by Kosowski and Anderson, and served to deflate the visitors at the end of the middle stanza. Ian Stentz’s 3-0 tally 2:34 into the third period more or less served as the back-breaker goal. Assists went to Blake Reed and Logan Resendez.
Eng made it 4-0, which certainly served as the game-icer, and Isaiah Tano tacked on an insurance tally just before the final horn. Michael Pellegrino and Callum McRae notched assists on Eng’s second tally while Curtis Maltby and Resendez received assists on the team’s final goal in the game.
Final shots favored the Aztecs 44-16. Nick Ilvento recorded the shutout with 16 saves.
Eng finished the two-game set with five goals after recording a hat trick in Friday’s series opener. Kosowski, Anderson and Resendez all registered two assists in Saturday’s rematch.
Brian Parsons had 39 saves in the Long Beach State net.
Reed picked up two penalties in the contest — one each for roughing and interference; Kellen Christopher also was sent to the sin bin twice — one each for roughing and slashing. Christopher Dauria was charged with an unsportsmanlike penalty very late in the game.
The Forty-Niners were assessed six penalties.
SDSU will host UC San Diego Friday, Oct. 29, at the Kroc Center Ice Arena. Face-off is 8 p.m. The teams rematch at 8:15 p.m. the next night at Poway Ice.
Bateman said it was only a matter of time before the Aztecs finally wore down the visitors.
“We always preach hard work through all zones,” the SDSU bench boss said. “We were just sustaining all the puck pressure in our zone, making sure (of the little details. We knew after the first that we had the legs tonight. Once the second period came, we could basically keep them hemmed in their zone and demoralizing them a little bit.
“It was a matter of time before they broke down. Their goalie played very well. It was only a matter of time before we broke through. We’re still missing three highly skilled guys on our roster. Once we’re complete — we’re hoping for this weekend — this is going to be an exciting team. It’s already the best team I’ve coached at State in my six years here.”
Theberge said it was “great” to be suddenly riding a two-game winning streak. “It’s so much fun playing with the boys, getting some wins,” he said. “The fans love it, so it’s a good time.”
The Aztec captain said he and his teammates enjoy playing in front of a rowdy crowd. “It’s the best crowd we have — we love them,” he said.
Theberge said his team played better its weekend out of the chute. “We definitely played a lot better this weekend,” he said. “Oregon is a good team; Long Beach is a good team. I just think we battled more this week.”
“It went well for us,” Eng said. “We stuck to our game and got a couple good bounces, some good offensive zone possession, so we controlled the whole game obviously.”
As for the physical play? “It’s nothing we weren’t used to,” Eng said. “We handled it, nothing crazy.”
“Our defense was huge today,” Ilvento chipped in. “They did a really good job of controlling the puck in our own zone, being strong on the puck and forcing it out when it needed to go out of the zone.”
(Originally published at https://sdsuhockey.com/aztec-news/)