The University of Central Oklahoma always seems to play the No. 1 ASU hockey team close. ASU is 2-0 vs. the No. 11 Bronchos (18-8-3), winning by scores of 4-2 and 4-1 in the first meetings this season in Oklahoma.
Thursday was nothing like that. From the first puck drop to the final horn, the Sun Devils (24-0-0) dominated every facet of the game vs. UCO and cruised to a 12-0 victory in the first game after the holiday break.
ASU coach Greg Powers was happy with the way his team returned from its time off.
“I think that’s the most complete game we’ve put together,” Powers said. “Good way to start the second semester.”
The game featured the return of senior captain Colin Hekle, who had been out since Nov. 7 with an upper body injury.
“(Returning) is a blessing, it’s almost like a late Christmas present,” Hekle said. “I feel 110 percent.”
When a team goes on the penalty kill, it’s typically a disadvantage for that team. ASU has never seen it that way, and neither does its short-handed artist. Down a man and with a 1-0 lead with just over half the time remaining in the first period, Hekle forced a turnover in the neutral zone and broke away in open ice to meet UCO goalie junior Tory Caldwell one-on-one.
Caldwell didn’t have a chance. Hekle deked to his forehand side, held the puck as long as he could dragging it across the crease, then slid the puck past Caldwell’s right pad with a backhand swipe.
And that was the second-most impressive goal for the Sun Devils in the period.
With 1:19 left in the frame, junior forward Faiz Khan found a loose puck in front of the net. He dove for it, missed and landed on his back. While on the ice, he took another shot at it. He connected and netted ASU’s third goal. Junior forward Liam Norris also scored in the period, a deflection in front of the net an even five minutes into the game.
From that point forward, the game turned into a one-sided beatdown of the No. 11 team in the nation.
Six ASU goals found twine in the second period alone, including one more apiece by Hekle and Khan. Also joining the party were freshman forward Sean Murphy, senior forward Brian McGinty, freshman forward Ryan Ostertag and senior forward Dave Jantzie, his first of the season.
Jantzie, after scoring his second goal of the night and the season, was given a game misconduct for kneeing late in the third period. Senior Danny McAuliffe also added a goal a frame.
Freshman defenseman Drew Newmeyer also added the night’s second short-handed goal to exitend ASU’s lead to 12, the largest margin of victory for the Sun Devils all season. They fell one goal shy of tying the most goals scored in a game, which they have done twice: on Sept. 20 vs. San Diego State and against UA on Dec. 7 in Tucson.
ASU freshman goaltender Robert Levin saved all 21 shots he faced on the way to his league-lead-tying fifth shutout.
ASU finishes with a season sweep over the Bronchos, and will continue its four-game homestand with two against No. 5 Oklahoma starting tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. MST at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
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