The ASU hockey team may be No. 1 in the ACHA, but the Sun Devils believe it’s only the beginning.
Friday night brought a wide variety of characters to the Tucson Convention Center (often called “The Madhouse on Main Street”) for the heated rivalry between No. 17 UA and ASU (13-0-0).
UA (5-7-0) did not get the upset it may have wanted, as the Sun Devils executed flawlessly on all facets of the game and won 7-1.
ASU coach Greg Powers knew the series against UA was going to be physical and involve a lot of trash talk.
“We stayed disciplined,” Powers said. “This is a really, really tough place to do that in, because the crowd can get to you.”
ASU had one of the least penalized games of the season, putting only three Sun Devils in the penalty box. Penalties have plagued ASU this season, resulting in self-inflicted goals.
“Coach has been harping on us to stay out of the box,” sophomore forward Kale Dolinski said. “We wanted to get the win and carve some pumpkins tonight.”
Junior goaltender Joseph D’Elia was thankful for the extra help from his defense and for ASU staying out of the box.
“Defensively, we were impeccable,” D’Elia said. “They got one of the luckiest bounces I have ever seen.”
D’Elia is referring to the only puck that got passed him all night after saving 21 of 22 shots on goal.
The shot on goal by UA freshman forward Brennen Parker got a generous deflection off of a player before going into the net.
Across the ice, junior goaltender Steven Sisler didn’t execute the way UA needed him to for a win.
The Sun Devils pierced Sisler for 53 shots on goal, putting seven of them on the scoreboard. Dolinski put three of those shots passed Sisler to record a hat trick and help ASU “carve some pumpkins.”
“It was great to have my line back,” Dolinski said. “(Sophomore forward Liam) Norris finally came back, and it was good to have the guys back.”
Norris contributed a goal and two assists for the Sun Devils.
The entire Sun Devil team played as a unit and put on what could arguably be one of the best performances of the season thus far.
“It was the full 60 (minutes) by our guys,” Powers said. “Most importantly, they stayed out of the box, and when we do that, we can beat anyone.”
The players felt confident with their execution against the Wildcats.
“It was our best all around game,” D’Elia said. “We were great.”
A questionable hit on freshman star defenseman Jordan Young fired up the Sun Devils, and Powers wasn’t pleased with the non-call.
“We’re very unhappy about (the hit on Young),” Powers said. “We’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
UA fights back, not enough
Saturday night was the UA hockey program’s homecoming for its alumni, and the crowd packed the Tucson Convention Center.
The fans certainly got to see an eventful hockey game.
The Sun Devils came out fast, outshooting UA 26-6 in the first period and taking an early 1-0 lead.
In the second period, the Wildcats turned the tables and outshot ASU after the Sun Devils’ defense sustained a breakdown.
With Young missing the game Saturday, the Sun Devils struggled. Young was evaluated late Friday night and cleared with whiplash symptoms, but did not play Saturday for precautions.
“Any team in the country would miss a Jordan Young,” Powers said. “He’s really a unique talent at our level.”
D’Elia stepped up big for the Sun Devils Saturday, yet again making the hard saves look easy.
“I think Joe really showed everyone why we are so high on him with his ability to make big saves look routine,” Powers said. “Joe really won that game for us.”
Sophomore forward Faiz Khan put ASU ahead for good in the third period, making it 2-1 before senior defenseman Brian Parson gave the Sun Devils some insurance.
The Sun Devils 3-1 victory extended the win streak over UA to 28 straight.
ASU will have a grudge-match with No. 7 Oakland — who knocked the Sun Devils out of the playoffs last season — on Thursday night at Oceanside Arena in Tempe.
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