The Cal State Fullerton men’s ice hockey team ended their last game of the calendar year on a high note by notching their first shutout of the season Saturday against the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels.
The Titans’ (16-7-2) 3-0 victory completed a weekend sweep over the Rebels, having defeated the Rebels 5-3 Friday night at the Ontario Center Ice Arena.
Titan senior goalie Brandon Heethuis got the win for his team after performing flawlessly in net, making 36 saves during a game that had its fair share of scoring chances for both teams.
On the other end of the ice, Las Vegas’ goaltender managed to make an impressive 47 saves.
Things were evenly matched in the early going of the game, with the goalies from both teams making big saves during respective penalty kills. Early into the second period, the Titans finally found the back of the net.
Shortly after a CSUF faceoff victory in Las Vegas’ end, Titan junior defenseman Jake Yarter launched the puck toward the net after being pressured by a UNLV player. The puck hit a body in traffic surrounding the net and found its way to the stick of Titan forward Eric Perusse. He tipped it in to score the eventual game winning goal, which also happened to be his first goal of the season.
The second goal of the game came from defensemen Payne Sauer less than five minutes into the third period following a two-on-one rush. Skating the puck into the UNLV zone with forward Ryan Cruz, Sauer managed to fire the puck past the Rebels’ goalie and score his 10th goal of the season.
Tensions rose as the game progressed and had its fair share of scraps, which resulted in a few coincidental penalties.
“If they’re going to draw a penalty, you want to get coincidentals,” Heethuis said. “You don’t want to just take a penalty so they’re on the power play.”
Assistant Coach Chris Houlihan credited their victory against UNLV to sticking to their game plan and not letting the Rebels get under their skin.
But with the game winding down, Las Vegas’ frustration became apparent as they drew two five-minute major penalties, including one from UNLV forward Brandon Beebe, who had a hat trick during their meeting the previous night.
“We try to keep our heads out of the stuff after the whistle, and it really paid off, we got a lot of power plays out of it,” Yarter said.
Titan defenseman Trevor Wada was able to score on the power play near the end of the game, but the team had several other opportunities to score on the power play but were unable to capitalize. Houlihan said that the power play is something the team will be working on during their break.
“The goals will come, tonight the game should have been eight to nothing, we just got to finish,” Houlihan said.
The victory extends the Titans’ hot streak, with the team remaining undefeated during their last eight matches. Over this stretch, the team has picked up six wins and two draws, both coming against UNLV in November.
“We’ve just been building on the momentum, getting better each game,” Houlihan said. “The boys have just been executing what we’ve been practicing.”
Houlihan said some of the things the Titans have been working on are breakouts and puck possession.
Heethuis, who has been apart of the Titan roster for five years said the victory increases the teams likelihood of entering regionals, and possibly nationals.
“This is by far the best team we’ve ever had, maybe not the most talented team we’ve ever had, but it’s definitely the best team,” Heethuis said. “We work together really well as a team.”
Next up for the Titans is a match against Chapman University on Jan. 4 at KHS Ice Arena.
For more information about the CSUF ice hockey team, go to TitanIceHockey.com.