Going scoreless on four of their five power plays and facing a hot goaltender led to the demise of the Cal State Fullerton ice hockey team as they lost 4-1 to USC Saturday night at Anaheim Ice.
The Titans’ last game was a huge 8-3 win versus UCLA Friday night. The Titans got goals from Sean Saligumba, Payne Sauer (2), Zach Henderson, Jacob Brummett (2), Ryan Cruz and Brandon Booth. CSUF got scoring from several players in that win, but had trouble finding the back of the net against USC’s very hot goaltender Eric Chiccone.
USC’s Beau Selisker took a penalty near the end of the second period, which led to the Titans’ lone goal by junior forward Taylor Castle. Castle shot a puck down low, but Chiccone stopped it. He got his own rebound and found the back of the net.
“We were on the power play. I was down low and a shot came through from the point. I was able to find it. I had one whack on it; it went wide. I was able to pull it back and sneak it right behind the goalie on his glove hand,” said Castle.
Ryan Cruz assisted on the Castle goal. He also scored in Friday’s win. He had several scoring chances in the game including a couple of breakaway opportunities. The speedy forward talked about the difference in his game now compared to earlier in the season.
“A lot of it’s mental, just confidence how you feel coming in to the rink,” said Cruz. “Even though I’m playing well, ultimately I want to see the team succeed. It’s nice to score, but losing like this to USC it stings.”
The Titans came out strong in the first period. They won the opening faceoff and maintained control of the puck. They began the period passing well and got good pressure early. They had several breakaway opportunities. Cruz and Brummett both had opportunities on the breakaway, but were denied both times by Chiccone. Castle also had three quality scoring chances in the first. Brandon Heethuis was solid in net for the Titans.
The first goal of the game came from USC’s Andrew Walkon with 5:13 left in the first. A CSUF player tried to clear the puck from their defensive zone, but it was intercepted by Walkon. He fired a quick shot that found the back of the net.
CSUF outplayed USC in the first, but due to an unfortunate bounce, CSUF trailed 1-0 at the end of the first.
The Titans began the second period with 22 seconds left on the power play, but couldn’t get out of their defensive zone. Brandon Booth and Castle were stopped on a couple of slap shots early in the second. USC’s Thomas Waschenfelder scored on a power play to add to the Trojans’ lead.
Minus Taylor Castle’s goal, USC dominated the second period. They had superb passing and several quality scoring chances.
The Titans came out strong in the third period and seemed full of life and ready to tie the game. Unfortunately, USC scored on a give and go play about midway through the period, which swayed the momentum for USC.
CSUF had one more opportunity to score when USC’s Beau Selisker took his third penalty of the night giving the Titans a power play with 2:28 left in the game. USC immediately cleared the puck. The Titans failed to get many quality scoring chances on that power play. Castle and Booth got a few shots on net, but failed to score. CSUF pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker, but USC scored an empty net goal with 29.4 seconds left in the game to seal the victory for the Trojans.
“We weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunities that we had. Even though we had control of most of the game, we couldn’t put the puck in the net,” Castle said. “They (USC) were able to capitalize a couple of times.”
Tyler Hainey, who played most of his life as a defenseman, was playing forward for most of the season. When Payne Sauer got injured, Hainey returned to defenseman. Sauer returned from the injured reserve as a forward and has brought some much-needed offensive pressure. Hainey has made some key defensive plays for the Titans.
Assistant coach Berkley Hoagland discussed how the team is still making adjustments.
“We are trying to do whatever we can do to figure things out. There’s always a switch there to get more offense and better defense,” Hoagland said. “It’s an experimental process.”
Hopefully, these adjustments can render positive results for the Titans. The Titans play the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in two away games, Friday and Saturday night at Sobe Ice Arena. For more information on this game and the men’s ice hockey team, visit TitanIceHockey.com.