After a difficult loss the previous night, the Cal State Fullerton men’s ice hockey team bounced back in a big way on Friday, beating the UCLA Bruins 5-0 en route to their first win of the season.
Three goals in the first period gave the Titans a solid lead, while two more in the third period–notably a fantastic short-handed effort by forward Alec Censullo on the penalty kill–put the final nail in the coffin.
“We definitely wanted the puck more and out-skated them,” said assistant coach Chris Houlihan. “We could have scored a lot more if we could have finished our chances. It was only 5-0, but it could have easily been 10 or 11-0.”
The Titans scoring opened up with senior Joe Gojanovic slipping a puck through the legs of the Bruins’ goaltender after Censullo won an offensive-zone faceoff.
Just a few minutes later, the Titans struck again when forward Taylor Castle won the puck back to defenseman Jacob Brummett off another faceoff win. Brummett fired a shot through heavy traffic before the puck found the back of the net. Adam Brusig was awarded the goal off of a deflection.
Castle tapped in an easy goal on a breakaway to put the Titans ahead 3-0 after a nice play by defenseman Payne Sauer.
“We caught them in a bad change, and all I know is we have a two-on-zero going in and he feeds me a perfect pass and I just one-time it in,” Castle said. “It was all about the pass. None of that happens without the teamwork from Sauer to Brusig,” Castle added.
Play in the second period slowed down, which led to the Titans having a potentially dangerous three-goal lead into the third period, Houlihan said.
“We told them that they need to step on their throats and keep putting pucks toward the net,” Houlihan said of what the coaches told their players before the period.
The Bruins came out strong in the third, creating a few quality scoring chances that were just barely kept out by goaltender Brandon Heethuis.
Play went back and forth before Titans forward Sean Saligumba converted on a slick unassisted goal that saw him skate the puck through the slot and fire a high wrist shot that beat the goaltender glove side.
Two quick penalties by the Titans threatened their shutout, as the Bruins swarmed the Titan net during their 5-on-3 power play.
The aggressive penalty kill from the Titans paid off when Censullo intercepted a pass and skated the puck up the ice. Censullo was initially stopped by a Bruins defender before regaining possession of the puck and going in all alone against the goaltender. A quick deke sent the netminder sprawling as Censullo tapped the puck in the net.
“I definitely just wanted to get the puck out of the zone. I skated up the ice and skated right into him, and luckily the other guy turned around and decided to give the puck right to me,” Censullo said of the goal.
Confidence was key for the Titans, who were coming off a 9-1 beatdown the previous night at the hands of University of Colorado.
“We’re finally just getting used to our lines and playing with each other. Everyone’s getting more confident–we had been practicing for two months and now everyone is just settling down and not being afraid,” Houlihan said.
Defenseman Payne Sauer said, “We knew we were going to roll over UCLA, they’re not that good. Confidence was a big key.”
With three games coming up this weekend, Houlihan admitted the team could still improve by finishing their scoring chances.
“We had opportunities to bury the puck tonight. Against good teams, if you don’t bury the puck, it’s going to come back to bite you in the butt,” he said.
The Titan ice hockey team faces San Jose State on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. at the KHS Ice Arena.