No. 1 ASU hockey coach Greg Powers has said all season that the team’s biggest strength is its depth.
With nine veterans suspended for a violation of team rules, the depth showed, and a short-handed ASU team (11-0-0) came away with a 7-2 victory over No. 6 Delaware (8-2-0).
“I was never nervous about it,” Powers said. “Real happy with the effort.”
Senior captain Colin Hekle opened the scoring for ASU. He forced a turnover in the offensive zone and beat Delaware junior goalie Noble Tucker for the unassisted goal. Fifty-five seconds later, freshman forward Sean Murphy took a pass from senior forward Kale Dolinski and deposited it in the net for the Sun Devils’ second goal.
Powers said he expects big performances from Dolinski, an assistant captain, and Hekle on nights when the team is short.
“They have to (perform well), that’s why they wear letters,” Powers said. “And why they’re two of, if not the best, two of the best players in the country.”
Hekle, who finished with two goals and an assist, said he takes it upon himself as captain to come up big.
“Situations like this, (my teammates) count on guys like me and Kale to produce, and it’s nice to actually produce when you need it,” Hekle said.
It seemed like ASU would take control after the two goals, but that’s when Delaware started fighting back.
Delaware senior forwards Mark Zeszut and Christopher Volonnino beat two ASU defensemen then senior goaltender Joe D’Elia to put the Blue Hens on the board.
That was the end of Delaware’s fight, though as ASU took control from there and cruised all the way to the final horn.
Of ASU’s seven goals, none were as pretty as Dolinski’s goal at the end of the second period.
With time winding down and the Sun Devils on the penalty kill, Hekle was moving toward the net with Dolinski on his wing. Tucker dove forward to knock the puck loose, and Hekle flipped it over Tucker and right to Dolinski. The net was wide open and it was too easy for Dolinski to score. That made it 6-1 ASU after the second period.
Hekle put another goal across in the third period to give him a team-leading nine goals on the season.
Hekle and Dolinski each had a short-handed goal Friday, and Powers marveled at their ability on the penalty kill.
“(Hekle) and Kale are so good at it, it’s comical at times,” Powers said.
With just under seven minutes left in the third period ASU sophomore forward Chris Blessing left the game with an apparent knee injury. He was down on the ice and was helped off by his teammates. Powers said he does not know the extent of his injury.
Delaware’s frustration started boiling over in the third period, and the penalty box was filling up for both sides on roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct calls.
Hekle said the team may not have a game all season where that doesn’t happen.
“I like that stuff, it gets me into the game, so I have no problem with it,” he said.
Friday’s rematch between ASU and Delaware is at 7:30 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena.
– Freshman forward Zack Holstrom returned for the first time since Oct. 4 against UA. Freshman forward Eric Rivard dressed and sat on the bench, but did not play.
– Powers said on Wednesday it was key players who were suspended, and he wasn’t kidding. Among the players who did not dress to play were forwards Danny McAuliffe (tied for team lead in goals), Brian McGinty (second in points), Liam Norris and defensemen Jordan Young and Brett Blomgren.
– The new ACHA rankings gave ASU the No. 1 spot for the first time this season. It is the first time ASU has been No. 1 since late January last season.
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