In its first year of the new conference, No. 1 ASU hockey has won the Western Collegiate Hockey League Championship.
The conference began this season with its members including the Sun Devils (32-2-0) along with No. 12 UA, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 11 Central Oklahoma, Colorado and Colorado State. Before this season, the two Colorado schools played at the Division II level and the other four were independent.
ASU just needed one win last weekend on its three-game trip to Colorado to clinch the conference, and it didn’t waste any time, winning the game against Colorado 9-1 Thursday night. Freshman forward Ryan Ostertag recorded a hat trick, his 15th, 16th and 17th goals on the season.
ASU finished the weekend with wins, but Friday wasn’t easy. The game was tied 5-5 after regulation, the most goals ASU had allowed in a game all season. It was still tied after overtime, and it remained that way until senior forward Brian McGinty won the game in an eight-round shootout.
Saturday was far less dramatic, as the Sun Devils cruised to a 9-1 beatdown of Colorado State.
Behind ASU, the current standings have Oklahoma, Central Oklahoma and UA. Colorado State and Colorado, in their first seasons at the Division I level, bring up the fifth and sixth spots.
Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma are expected to join ASU in the national tournament.
UA helped its chances significantly with a win over the top-ranked Sun Devils Feb. 1 in Tempe, then a two-game sweep in Boulder, Colo. against Colorado this weekend, though it did lose to Colorado State. UA’s win over ASU was the second time this season the Wildcats knocked off the No. 1 team, beating Minot State Nov. 8.
UA has played the toughest schedule in the nation according to the computer polls, and could be the last team into the tournament, despite a 17-19-0 record. UA goes to Minot State this weekend for two games, and playing well there could be the push the Wildcats need.
There is no postseason WCHL tournament, meaning there is no chance for either of the two Colorado schools to go on a postseason run and sneak into the tournament. Neither are expected to make the tournament.
– ASU’s Division II team, which plays in the Pac-8, won the Division II Pac-8 Championship.
– ASU has this weekend off, and concludes its regular season on Feb. 21 and 22 in Tucson against UA. The last meeting between the Arizona schools saw the Wildcats end ASU’s 37-game winning streak against its rival.
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Correction: Because of a reporting error, the story said that winning the WCHL granted an auto-bid to the national tournament, which it does not. The story has been updated to reflect that change.