San Diego State sets sights on regionals berth
There are times in life that are referred to as transition periods.
One chapter of life’s journey comes to a close, and another soon opens.
As a senior business management major at San Diego State University, Travis Sevilla isn’t quite ready to see college come to a conclusion; rather, he’s trying to extend his competitive hockey career.
Hockey has been the one constant in his life since he was a Pee Wee with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings. A two-time state champion at the 16U AA and 18U AA levels, Sevilla was a natural choice to lead the Aztecs after the graduation of captain Conor Pope.
As of mid-January, the forward led the team in goals this season with 18 and points with 26. The team aspect, however, concerns Sevilla the most, as the Aztecs club president wants nothing more to make a run at the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II team’s first West Regional appearance since his freshman year.
“I’m really hungry,” Sevilla said. “I want to go out on a high note. This is the end of my rope, so I’m hoping to make it to regionals this year.”
Sevilla offers words of wisdom to his teammates, encouraging them to cherish the opportunity to extend their playing days into college.
“I’ll tell the guys, ‘You won’t realize it, but this is kind of it; it’s the last big taste of competitive hockey you might be playing. You just want to keep driving and go as far as you can.’”
At the midway point of the season, the Aztecs, who held an 8-7-0-1 record, sat just inside the West Regional rankings at No. 17. San Diego State began the second half with a three-game road trip through Texas before returning to California for a two-game set against Long Beach State – then ranked No. 12.
Anthony Mata, who was second on the team in scoring (14 goals, nine assists), says there’s a sense of urgency to get off to a hot start as the spring semester begins.
“It’s definitely going to be hard; I’m sure everybody knows that,” he said. “We just have to come in prepared.
“We definitely have to win out to make a statement on the rankings to show that we’re still in this. It’s going to be a huge second semester for us, and we’re ready for the challenge.”
The top 10 in the West rankings qualify for the regional tournament. The top two teams – Arizona State Elite and Utah as of mid-January – receive automatic berths to nationals, while the remaining eight teams compete for two additional spots in the tournament.
San Diego State has played its best hockey with goaltender Connor O’Brien between the pipes. The Aztecs were 7-4 in games he started, and the senior posted a 3.64 goals-against average while recording the team’s lone shutout in the season-opener against Loyola Marymount.
Despite their comparable offensive numbers, Sevilla and Mata play on different lines due in large part to the philosophy of first-year coach Ted Powers, who prefers to have balance throughout his lineup.
“With Ted, it’s more about keeping the lines even,” Mata said. “At the same time, we know different systems and whatever we see out there is whatever we adapt to.”
San Diego State has had four different head coaches the last four seasons. Regardless of the inconsistencies in coaching styles, Mata is thankful being able to play throughout college, especially since the program nearly folded when he first arrived on campus.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” the San Diego native said. “I’m definitely grateful that I can still play hockey, especially after juniors.”
“Hockey at San Diego State kind of has always been a struggle. Everything turned out for the best, though, and we still have a team. We’re still playing.”
– Andrew Turner