Then there were four.
After the final whistle of Sunday’s competition at the ACHA national tournament, only four club hockey teams remained and ASU is one of them.
As soon as the puck dropped, the Fighting Illini kept the action almost exclusively in the ASU zone for the first five minutes of the game.
Then one play completely flipped the momentum.
Freshman forward Stephen Collins stole the puck in the Illinois zone, found junior forward Brian McGinty who put it in the net to score the first goal of the game.
Illinois seemed to deflate after McGinty’s goal.
The rest of the first period was all ASU. The Sun Devils launched shot after shot on the Illinois net, making junior goaltender Nick Clarke make one difficult save after another.
Aside from his team-leading 54 points, one thing ASU missed from junior captain Colin Hekle during his injury was his penalty killing ability. The team needed Hekle’s skills Sunday.
Illinois killed an ASU power play and then the Illini went on their own power play. Hekle and the rest of the penalty kill unit did not let Illinois get one shot off during the power play.
The second period was a showdown between goalies junior Joe D’Elia and Clarke. Both goalies were peppered with shots and repelled all opposing attacks.
At the end of two periods, ASU led the shot total 28-19.
After D’Elia shut out the Illini for half of the third period, until junior forward John Scully managed to slide one past him for the Illini to tie the game with 11:08 left in regulation.
Scully’s goal was a breath of life for the Illinois fired up the players on the bench.
Shortly after, ASU went onto the power play. From there, senior Ryan Clark took over.
With 7:03 left in third period, Clark took a shot, which was deflected and found the back of the net. The power play goal gave ASU the lead that they would not give up.
Junior forward Kale Dolinski added an empty-netter with 0:47 left in the game to make the final score 3-1 ASU.
ASU’s victory puts it into the final four in the ACHA tournament. It will play its next game Tuesday, March 5.
Due to the reseeding for the semifinals, the Sun Devils will not know their opponent until later Sunday night.
If No. 1 Adrian loses, ASU will play the highest remaining seed. If Adrian wins, ASU will play No. 3 Minot State.
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