The shiny, brass trophy sat, in all of its glory, in the middle of the conference room table, as the California State University, Northridge’s Ice Hockey Club buzzed in excitement and waited for news.
Team members gathered in the conference room of the Student Recreation Center on Feb. 13, hyped and ready to find out: did they qualify for the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Men’s Division II West Regional Tournament?
The players chatted about the season’s recent triumphs, including defeating Loyola Marymount University 8-0 in the Semi-Finals and a 4-3 win against Long Beach State just the previous Sunday, capturing the West Coast Hockey Conference championship for the third year in a row. But had that triumph come too late? In the season’s final rankings released before the tournament, they were 16th, which would place them out of the tournament.
J.P. Gale, Associated Students Sports Club manager and a volunteer coach of the Ice Hockey Club, readied the projector to broadcast the ACHA 2019 Reveal Show. Within the first two minutes — much earlier than the team expected — ACHA officials revealed the brackets for the first games of the West Regional Tournament, drawing cheers and high fives from the team.
CSUN earned the No. 10 seed out of the 58 teams in the West Regional Tournament, making them the only California team to qualify.
At the end of the month, the CSUN team will travel to Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Ariz., to play their first regional tournament game against Montana State University, at 6 p.m. PST on Feb. 28.
From 248 collegiate ice hockey teams, 48 make the cut — 12 from each of four regions. To qualify for the regional tournaments, teams must finish in the top 12 in their respective regions, according to ACHA’s ranking algorithms, to compete in their respective regions.
“It was a surprise because we were so far out,” said Gale, referring to the Feb. 7 ranking that ranked the Matadors 16th. “We had a bad January, and we knew we really had to play well. But now, I’m excited. We’ve had some bumps, some injuries — if you could see the guys and their crutches — but I’m glad we’ve earned our spot in the tournament.”
“Ten’s not bad! Ten’s top 10!” Gale shouted to his team, who could now relax, celebrate and enjoy some cheese pizza and Gatorade, anxiety-free.
Equally ecstatic about competing in regionals after a period of setbacks was team captain John Michael Laurin (a junior majoring in business management).
“In my first year, 2017, we got into regionals, and after not getting there last year, we knew we wanted to be back,” said Laurin. “I’m really excited to be with this team.”
Of the first-round tournament game, Laurin said, “I have a really good feeling about [winning].”
The West Regional Tournament, which will take place Feb. 28-March 2, will kick off he ACHA Men’s Division II Regionals, followed by the Southeast, Central and Northeast Regionals from March 1-3. If the Matador’s winning streak continues, they will compete in ACHA’s National Tournament in Frisco, Texas, from March 22-26.
To cheer on the CSUN Ice Hockey Club in their game against Montana State, tune in to a radio broadcast of the game in the CSUN Sport Clubs Facebook page.