The LMU Lions wrapped up the first half of its 2018-19 regular season sitting atop the conference and with a guaranteed trip to the playoffs already in hand.
The Lions enter the break leading the West Coast Hockey Conference (WCHC) with a 10-2 mark (20 points) in conference play. LMU’s 20 points in WCHC action is already a program-record. LMU swept the season series against five WCHC opponents (Chapman, CSU-Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton, UCSB, and USD) and will look for a sixth in its final conference games of the season, Friday Jan. 18 and Saturday Jan. 19 against UCSB. LMU is the only team in the WCHC to have already clinched a playoff berth.
With multiple players sidelined to injuries for much of the season’s opening months, the Lions needed contributions from every player on the roster, especially the newcomers. The Lions have seven players with at least 20 points already (Mauthe, Hirai, Clem, Kilkenny, Billings, Shibata, Johnson), the most of any team in the WCHC.
The LMU offense is powered by its youth as its top five scorers are all playing in their debut seasons. Freshman Nick Mauthe leads the team with 30 points (13G/17A). If he maintains his lead through the end of the season, Mauthe would become the first freshman to pace the Lions in scoring since the program’s re-birth in 2006.
Freshman Ryan Hirai leads the team with 20 assists and ranks second with 27 points in 13 games played. Mauthe (3rd), Hirai (5th), and freshman Brian Clem (7th) are all among the top ten scorers in the WCHC.
Back in goal, the Lions have sent in four netminders to protect the cage this season and all four have produced a winning record. Jason Footlick has led the way for LMU, leading the WCHC with six wins in his nine starts (6-2-1). Footlick also ranks second in the conference with .904 save percentage. Freshmen Hayden Stocker and Grant Campbell are both 3-0 on the season. Campbell made 15 saves to record his first collegiate shutout in the Lions 17-0 victory over Chapman on Nov. 30.
The Lions capped off a successful first half of the season with a thrilling comeback win in overtime against CSU-Long Beach on “Teddy Bear Toss” night. After LMU’s first goal, fans were invited to throw teddy bears onto the ice at Skating Edge Ice Arena. In all, 116 bears were tossed and donated to charity by the team. On the ice, the Lions were trailing by a goal in the third period, when Justin Hertz potted his ninth tally of the season to pull the home team even. Still tied at two after sixty minutes of action, the Lions headed to their third overtime game this year. In the extra frame, Greg Bennett found the back of the net to win it for the Lions, their sixth win of the season on home ice.
The Lions will welcome a new player to the roster for the second half of the season as forward Eric Anderson joins the team. Anderson is a transfer from NCAA Division-III Stevenson College in Maryland, where he played with LMU forward Kyle Penn last season. The Lions will also welcome back two former players who took the first semester off, Mike Adelson and Marc Brockwell.
The Lions will be back in action on Jan. 18 and 19 for a home-and-home series with UCSB in the first ever meeting between the two teams. LMU will then wrap up its 2019 regular season with three games in Texas before returning home to play the final three home games of the season against USC and San Jose State at Skating Edge Ice Arena. All games are available for streaming on lmuicehockey.com.
Follow along with the Lions as they make their push towards a WCHC championship! You can find the team on Twitter and Instagram (@LMUIceHockey) or www.lmuicehockey.com.
(Story courtesy of LMU Play by Play announcer, Matt Weller)