The ASU hockey team had looked forward to its game on Thursday night since the season began back in September.
The No. 7 Oakland Grizzlies knocked out No. 1 ASU (14-0) in the playoffs last season before advancing to the ACHA championship later in the tournament.
Ironically enough, Oakland beat the Sun Devils 3-2 in overtime.
Tonight brought another overtime grudge match resulting in the same score, but the teams swapped roles this time around.
The Sun Devils defeated the Grizzlies (9-5) in a close 3-2 victory in a double-overtime, shootout thriller.
“It’s bittersweet,” coach Greg Powers said.
Oceanside Arena was packed for one of the most electrifying games of the season thus far.
The Grizzlies came out fast in the first period and seemed to match-up well with ASU on both ends of the ice.
“They were fast and physical,” Powers said. “They had a hot goalie.”
Hot goalie may have been an understatement when describing Oakland sophomore goaltender Corey Hrischuk.
Hrischuk saved 41 of 43 shots in regulation before giving up the game-winner in the shootout. Oakland may not have made it to overtime without the phenomenal play by Hrischuk between the pipes.
Junior goaltender Joseph D’Elia just proved to be the “x-factor” in the game, and fortunately for the Sun Devils, he stands in their net.
D’Elia could have once again provided a shutout victory for ASU, but a goal that bounced off his shoulder and behind him found its way into the net. The other goal received a generous deflection before getting passed D’Elia.
“I should have had both of those goals back,” D’Elia said. “It should have never went to a shootout. I think I drank too much eggnog before the game.”
Eggnog or not, D’Elia became the star of the game in the shootout saving three of the four shots and 27 of the 29 shots in regulation. D’Elia seems to relish the one-on-one opportunities against any opponent.
“I battled hard in the shootout, so I’ll take it,” D’Elia said. “They (Oakland) battled hard and came to play.”
The Grizzlies never gave up after falling behind twice in the game. Oakland outshot the Sun Devils in the 2nd period 11-9, which led to the Grizzlies first goal of the night by freshman forward Anthony Coles.
Sophomore forward Kale Dolinski once again shined for ASU scoring its only two goals in regulation.
Overtime presented a few opportunities for the Sun Devils, but Hrischuk continued to be the human wall.
Once the sudden death shootout began, it was all about coaching strategy and raw talent.
D’Elia made a huge deflection on Oakland junior forward Frank Matyok’s opening attempt.
Junior forward Dave Jantzie got the first opportunity for the Sun Devils, but was denied by Hrischuk.
Coles, Oakland’s leading scorer, was next up and put a beautiful wrist-flick shot past D’Elia.
Sophomore forward Faiz Khan put an incredible backhand off the post past Hrischuk to tie the shootout at 1-1.
The next shots by both Oakland and ASU were blocked by the two outstanding goalies, turning the shootout into sudden death — next goal wins.
D’Elia came up with a huge save from Grizzly freshman forward Richard Hubscher.
Then freshman forward Stephen Collins creatively put the puck top-shelf past Hrischuk to win the game for the Sun Devils.
“I usually just play it out and see what spot he gives me,” Collins said. “He left the top corner (open), he’s a big goalie.”
Powers loved the performance and persistence by the team, but knows a full-played game by the Sun Devils could have avoided overtime.
“We got to piece 60 minutes together,” Powers said. “We can beat anyone when we play a full 60.”
Beatdown on the Buffaloes
On Friday night, the Sun Devils were attempting to improve to 15-0, thus being the best start in ASU hockey history.
The game started out slow for ASU, as Colorado junior goaltender Bryan Ward saved all 19 shots on goal in the first period. Eight minutes into the second period, ASU junior forward Brian McGinty scored the Sun Devils’ first goal of the game and ninth of the season.
Junior forward and captain Colin Hekle put the Sun Devils up 2-0 on a short-handed goal before the end of the third period. The lead would only increase as the game went on.
ASU scored four goals in the third period before winning 6-1 over the Division II Buffaloes. The third period included much more in between than just five total goals, as Colorado and the Sun Devils got physical resulting in several injuries. Seven penalties occurred in the third period alone between the two squads that led to Buffalo senior defenseman Sam Kinney being removed from the game for precautionary reasons. Sophomore forward Liam Norris also took a hit and was taken out by Powers to play it safe and due to ASU’s big lead late in the game.
With the Sun Devils big victory, the ASU hockey team set its personal best record to start off a season at 15-0. The team heads to Oklahoma this coming weekend to face No. 15 Central Oklahoma for one game and No. 6 Oklahoma for a two-game series.
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