Hockey reaches 20 wins for first time in program history

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Courtesy of Greg Siller

Sophomore forward Michael Pellegrino against Washington on Nov. 2 at the Joan Kroc Center.

by Amber Salas, Staff Writer

San Diego State men’s ice hockey made program history on Saturday, Jan. 25 in its 5-4 shootout victory over Arizona State at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Arizona.

This victory was the Aztecs’ 20th of the season.

Hitting 20 wins has never been done in the 45-year history of the Aztecs’ hockey program. This historical 20th win was their “hardest fought game yet,” according to junior captain Reece Breuckman.

Sophomore forward Michael Pellegrino scored the game-winning shootout goal to give the Aztecs the win.

“We fought hard to get the game to overtime and ultimately won in shootout,” Breuckman said. “The fact that it was the 20th win was great, but it felt even better after a losing streak and knowing that while depleted, our team was strong enough to band together and pull out the win.”

Bruckeman explained that the team had a good feeling heading into the game. The Aztecs (20-9-1, PAC-8 Conference) knew they had the opportunity in front of them to make history.

“Going into Saturday night’s game in Arizona we were feeling good after two promising games in a row against Michigan and ASU,” Breuckman said.

Pellegrino got the momentum rolling right away – scoring the game’s first goal 28 seconds into the first period.

Less than two minutes later, Pellegrino scored again to give the Aztecs a 2-0 lead.

The Sun Devils bounced back by scoring a total of three goals during the remainder of the first period.

Aztecs sophomore forward Mickey Sullivan scored a goal with two minutes remaining in the first period to tie the game 3-3.

The game continued to be a back-and-forth affair. The Aztecs would score, then the Sun Devils would answer.

The Aztecs knew they needed to protect the net in the third period to stay in the game. In total, the Sun Devils had a total of 44 shots on goal compared to the Aztecs’ 34.

Plenty of opportunities came for the Sun Devils to score in the third period to win the game, but SDSU sophomore goaltender Nick Ilvento kept them in the game.

No ASU goals were scored in the third period, sending the game to overtime. With no goals scored in overtime, the game was then sent to shootout.

Both teams received chances to score one-on-one goals. Pellegrino drove down the line and was able to find the back of the net to win.

The Aztecs went into winter break with a 19-3-1 record. The team came back on Friday, Jan. 10 and lost five-straight games.

The Aztecs dropped two games to Iowa, two games to Michigan and one game against ASU.

“We were cruising along at the start of the season going 19-3-1, but we ended up losing our first five games back from break,” Breuckman said. “On top of that, we had lost our top four scorers on the year in the process.”

Despite their trials, the Aztecs continued to dig deep and found a way to get the win.

Breuckman explained that one of the most interesting things about the team is its youth.

“Over 60% of our team are underclassmen, but they have made an immediate impact,” he said.

Looking at the team’s stats, one wouldn’t guess how young this team is. Despite the lack of experience, these underclassmen have evolved to be the top scorers and leaders of the team.

Although 20 wins is an accomplishment for the program, Breuckman explained that the team is still hungry for more.

The Aztecs will be traveling to Lake Tahoe, California on Feb. 7 for the PAC College Hockey playoff tournament.

“It really has been an amazing ride so far,” Breuckman said. “We hope to carry our momentum into the PAC tournament and bring home some hardware.”

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