News Recap

SDSU Hockey Secures First ACHA Division 1 Win

(Photo Credit: @baseballmegs)

The final horn sounded. “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky began, but was quickly drowned out by the roar and applause of fans. SDSU skaters filled into Parks Owensby’s crease, cheering, laughing, and hugging. The Aztecs raised and slammed their sticks to salute their fans. They had their first victory in ACHA Division 1.

“It’s been a long time coming, this is their Stanley Cup tonight,” said head coach Phillip Bateman, smiling.

147 days ago, the San Diego State University Aztecs welcomed fans to the Army Kroc Center for the season-opener. 2022-23 would be their inaugural season in ACHA’s Division 1. 146 days ago, the Aztecs dropped their second-consecutive loss to the University of Colorado Buffaloes in a highly physical matchup. The Aztecs were 0-2.

The following week, the Aztecs dropped both games against Northern Arizona University, a Division 2 opponent the Aztecs had defeated twice last season. The Aztecs remained winless.

“We knew this was not gonna be an easy season, every night was gonna be a battle. No team was gonna be a push-over,” stated Bateman.

Over the course of the next 139 days, the team’s first win of 2022-23 still evaded them. Despite a memorable trip and three games in Las Vegas, three games played in the team’s trip to New York, and 20 total hard-fought matchups—the Aztecs were yet to be rewarded for their efforts.

“When you go winless, it drags on you. It makes you question whether you can play at this level… it’s hard to see improvement,” noted Bateman.

But, the Aztecs had reason to be especially excited for tonight’s matchup against George Mason University. 113 days ago, the Aztecs took the Patriots to overtime in their closest contest of the season, an eventual 3-2 overtime loss. As Bateman put it: “for a while, we’ve circled this game on the calendar where we might be able to steal one.”

The Aztecs took an early lead in the contest, courtesy of Shane Ege’s second goal of the season. After the George Mason University Patriots tied the game, goals from Ian Stentz and Michael Eng saw the Aztecs enter the third period with a 3-1 lead.

The Patriots struck just one minute into the third period. With 8:42 remaining, the Aztecs gave up an untimely short-handed goal. The game was tied, with GMU holding all the momentum and poised to complete the comeback. Day-147 of the Aztecs’ season looked likely to have a similar result as Day-1.

“When that slump happened in the third period—where we gave back our two goal lead—I think they knew it wasn’t George Mason that was putting up this push,” Bateman shared. “We had come out a little bit too flat.”

“Up and down the bench, they were encouraging each other, getting the energy back,” the coach added.

This energy resulted in a moment 147 days in the making:

Ege had the puck behind the Patriot’s net. He flung the puck towards Isaiah Tano in the slot, who tried to get a shot off. The puck found its way to Nolan Conrad, who slid it past the opposing goaltender.

Luke Desmarais’ empty netter sealed the Aztecs’ landmark victory.

“They’ve all improved. From the time we hit the ice back in training camp, to when we got off the ice two weeks ago against ASU: they are a better collection of hockey players. But when you don’t win, they don’t buy it.” Bateman was elated the team could now see the progress they have made throughout the season.

The Aztecs’ head coach was especially complimentary of the team’s effort in tonight’s game: “Attention to detail sometimes comes down to a ‘PK-mentality’; a desperation. Every single time you get out there you have to finish your check, win your puck battle, clear the zone, get pucks down low, do all the cliche little things. They add up to a team-win.”

“I was proud of the guys,” added Conrad, the game-winning goal scorer. “Everybody banged bodies tonight and worked hard. We can see that effort put up on the scoreboard.”

The head coach also mentioned what this victory meant to the club’s seniors: “I think they’ll leave with a lot of pride knowing that they were a part of that first (win). This has been a season of firsts.”

Those seniors will be suiting up in their last season with the Scarlett and Black, as tomorrow the Aztecs will finish their season in a rematch with the GMU Patriots. Puck drop is at 8:30 p.m. for the Aztecs’ final game of 2022-23.


SDSU Still Searching for First Division-1 Win

FORT COLLINS, Colorado — San Diego State University’s Ice Hockey program knew their inaugural season in ACHA Division-1 would be a challenging change of pace. Especially when considering they would blow out opponents in Division-2 and -3 with double-digit goals frequently.

Now, the Aztecs (0-6) are on the opposite end of these lopsided affairs. They most recently fell victim to the Colorado State University Rams, who tallied 9 goals on Friday, then added 10 more Saturday in their recent back-to-back games.

In fairness, the Aztecs are struggling with some health concerns. Top-pairing staple Cam Henderson missed the trip with an upper-body injury. The under-manned roster was also battling a cold being spread amongst the team, that was exaggerated by the increased elevation.

“The team is very competitive despite having a clear talent deficiency,” reflected head coach Phillip Bateman. He continued, “Where we lack is confidence. There is a major psych out every game we shouldn’t be on the ice yet with D1 teams.”

Despite the lopsided score lines, but poor third periods exaggerated the Aztec’s defeats. The score after 40-minutes was within two or three goals before their eventual 9-3 and 10-0 losses over the weekend.

“I know we are undermanned at times, that we are not going to have a match-up advantage, so we just have to instill belief in our players, and give them the confidence to play with some pace, and don’t get frustrated,” noted Bateman.

They will have time to work on that. The Aztecs will have two weeks of practices at home before flying cross-country to Buffalo, NY. Their back-to-back will start with George Mason University (2-4), who finished 58th out of 68 Division-1 teams last season. The Aztecs will be hoping for improved health and scoring heading into their East coast trip.


Aztecs’ Resilience Not Enough, Drops Two Games to NAU

SDSU Hockey defeated the Northern Arizona University Icejacks in both matchups last season. Even playing away in Scottsdale, the Aztecs defeated their Division-2 counterparts.

While there was still positives to take away from the weekend, the Aztecs—now in Divison-1—are disappointed to have dropped both games against NAU.

The first game looked out of reach early after Parks Owensby and company allowed three goals in the first four minutes, on route to a 5-1 first period deficit.

Head coach Phillip Bateman felt the team’s “complete lack of focus” led to their poor start. “I don’t think they prepared as tightly as they should have for the game,” said the coach.

In the first period, Bateman lamented “our defensive pride was absolutely non-existent.”

In the second, the team had a new demeanor. This switch of a mentality was in part to a goaltending change, with backup Charlee Lerow taking the crease.

The Aztecs finally started clicking in the third, where senior Blake Reed notched two goals and junior Gavin O’Bryan completed a hat trick. But the team dug too deep of a hole to start and lost 7-6.

Bateman’s message to his team ahead of the second game was “come out here with a little venom… understand who you are and set the tone.”

The second game looked to be more of the same, as an odd-man-rush led to NAU scoring in just over a minute.

When asked, assistant coach Clark Oliver said the coaching staff did nothing different to prepare for the second game. “I think the message was pretty clear. They knew what they needed to do,” offered Oliver.

After exchanging goals in the second period, the game was deadlocked 2-2 for most of the game. Another mishandling of the puck in the neutral zone allowed an Icejack forward a rush, which he slotted five-hole on Owensby.

Even with the goalie-pulled late in the third, and 37 shots on net throughout the affair, the Aztecs could not tie the game. “Their goalie stole that game,” said Oliver.

In their losses, the Aztecs showed resiliency and grit, battling back from early deficits to remain competitive. In two weeks, when the Aztecs travel for the first time this season, the team will need to continue their resiliency against Colorado State University.


Aztecs Remain Optimistic After First Dvision-1 Weekend

As the clock ticked down Saturday night on SDSU Hockey’s 6-9 defeat against the University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes, the Aztecs looked mentally and physically drained. Many would have expected the Aztecs’ jump to Division-1 to have been a struggle, but the team remained competitive for virtually the entire weekend.

Head coach Phillip Bateman was still complimentary of his team’s fight against the Buffaloes. “I think pretty clearly we’re a tenacious and speedy team,” said the coach. “We had a good game one, and evolved into a better game two… I think this group is learning to keep working hard and we just have to keep on (doing) that.”

Even in their losses, some individual Aztecs shined in their Division-1 debuts. Senior Ian Stentz potted two goals in Saturday’s matchup, despite just scoring five times in all of last season. Sophomore defenseman Lucas Bellig assisted on five of his team’s seven goals over the weekend, including a four-assist night on Saturday.

The main thing SDSU needs to improve upon: Discipline. In the words of captain Mike Pellegrino, “I think a lot of the goals they scored; we just took too many stupid penalties.” The Aztecs logged 27 penalty minutes over the course of their two games.

The captain was still proud of his team’s performance. “I don’t want anyone to hold their head down… Some people wrote us off and figured ‘they (SDSU are gonna get killed by a team that’s been in this league 10 years.’ I think it’s good these were both close games.

“There’s things we need to work on, but I think we belong in this division with everyone else.”

The Aztecs will now be favored heading into this weekend’s matchup against Division-2 team Northern Arizona University. The Aztecs defeated the Lumberjacks in back-to-back away matchups last season and will be chomping at the bit to earn their first win of the season at the Kroc Center on Friday.


Aztecs Stomped by Buffaloes in Season Opener

San Diego State University Hockey lost their home opener 3-1 in their introduction to ACHA Division 1 play.

The game featured a feeling-out period to start, where chances were fairly equal and both teams saw shots glance off the post.

“I think we played most of the first period on adrenaline,” said head coach Phillip Bateman. “We were hyped up with a lot of nervous energy. I think we fell of the sugar rush, in the second period. We fell flat.”

The Aztecs would go down by two in that second period, which featured more noise, post-whistle scrums, and penalties than the first.

On their heels, the Aztecs were able to regain their footing in the third. Sophomore Luke Desmarais’ goal, the team’s first-ever tally in ACHA Division 1, brought SDSU within one.

Late in the third, a shot off the rush beat goaltender Parks Owensby and ended the Aztecs’ comeback bid.

The head coach was proud of his team’s fight in their introduction to the ACHA’s top-flight. He expects the Aztecs to improve as they adjust to the higher level of competition.

“We know we can do better because that was far from our best…. as we start to play these high-end opponents, we’re gonna be forced to do everything a half-step faster.”

The team will have a chance at redemption tomorrow, taking on the University of Colorado Boulder in the second game of the back-to-back.