No.1 ASU hockey battled No. 3 Liberty to overtime last week in Tempe, after winning in a shootout in their previous meeting last season. Friday night’s game featured no such drama, as ASU went into Liberty’s house and beat the Flames down by a 5-2 score.
The Sun Devils (27-1-0) had allowed the opponent to score first in their last three games, including in last week’s meeting with Liberty (23-5-1). They would not be denied Friday night though, as freshman defenseman Drew Newmeyer netted his fourth goal of the season.
“It was a good win,” ASU coach Greg Powers said. “I think we a had a chance of putting them away even worse, but they hung around and kept fighting. That’s what good teams do, but we’ll take a 5-2 win.”
From that point on, ASU would not look back. Some pretty puck movement on the power play late in the first created the Sun Devils’ second goal.
Senior forward Danny McAuliffe and junior forward Liam Norris threw the puck back and forth at each other until McAuliffe got open in the slot and blasted a one-timer to make ASU’s lead 2-0.
The line with McAuliffe and Norris was without its usual third, as ACHA-leading point-scorer and senior forward Kale Dolinski was out with what Powers called a “gut” feeling. He said Dolinski is not hurt and is expected to play Saturday night.
The entire first period saw both sides going back and forth with their scoring chances, but the difference was in ASU’s ability to capitalize. Midway through the first, Liberty junior forward Lindsay LeBlanc forced a turnover in front of ASU’s net, but couldn’t put the puck home past senior goalie Joe D’Elia.
The second period saw the Flames start to inch back into the game, only to leave the frame with a bigger deficit than when they entered.
About four minutes into the period Liberty freshman forward Robert Ward took a faceoff to D’Elia’s left, won it, then pulled out all the stops. He side-stepped his faceoff counterpart, ASU senior forward David Jantzie, and hurled the puck past D’Elia to bring the score within one.
It took less than a minute for the Sun Devils to restore their two-goal lead. After battling the puck out of his own zone, ASU freshman defenseman Jarrod Levos hit freshman forward Eric Rivard with a cross-ice pass, and Rivard did the rest. He skated in on the left wing side and beat Liberty’s goalie stick-side, hitting the post and deflecting in the net.
That brought the score to 3-1. Freshman forward Ryan Ostertag added another goal in the period to complete the first 40 minutes with a Sun Devil 4-1 lead.
ASU freshman forward Michael Cummings scored in the third period, then things got a little testy later in the period.
Fists started flying in front of the net and a street fight broke out with seemingly everyone getting involved.
Even Liberty senior goalie Blair Bennett wanted to go, and he skated out to center ice, challenging D’Elia to throw down. Knowing that fights equal a suspension, D’Elia opted to bow out, something Powers said he was happy to see.
“Seeing a goalie go to center ice like that is right out of ‘Slap Shot,’” Powers said. “There’s no room for it in the college game and I’m glad (D’Elia) handled himself the way he did.”
Rivard was assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty and it will remain to be seen if further action is taken by the league.
With 4:54 left in the game, Liberty added the final goal of the game on a redirect by sophomore forward Peter Kazmierczac, leading to the 5-2 final score.
ASU and Liberty are back it Saturday night, as the puck drops at 5 p.m. MST.
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