NEWARK, Del.— The rematch of the year is set for Sunday night.
No. 9 Minot State beat host No. 8 Delaware 3-2 in overtime Saturday night to advance to the quarterfinals against No. 1 ASU, setting the stage for the most highly anticipated matchup of the tournament so far.
The first meeting was in Tempe back on Nov. 7, a game in which Minot State was ranked No.1 and ASU was ranked No. 2. That round went to the Sun Devils 2-1 in what was arguably the most exciting game of the year.
Four months later, the Beavers are back and ready for round two.
“They play a good, selfless brand of hockey, block a lot of shots,” ASU coach Greg Powers said. “But I think our skill and our speed on that big open ice can help us knock them off.”
Powers said Minot State plays better in small, tight areas like the ice on Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe. The ice in Delaware is bigger, and Powers said ASU will use that to its advantage.
Considering the team they’re facing, the cards fell for the Sun Devils in the best possible way.
First, Minot State went to overtime Saturday against Delaware. That meant more time on the ice and a fatigued team. Daylight saving time also ended between the end of Minot’s first-round game and its quarterfinal with ASU, so Minot will have only 20 hours to rest. ASU did not play Saturday and will be fully rested, a blessing considering the injuries to sophomore defenseman Brett Blomgren and freshman forward Sean Murphy.
Secondly, Minot State will most likely be without its top scorer. Freshman forward Jeremy Johnson took a ferocious hit on the play that ended the game and was not able to immediately get up. He crawled off the ice and was unable to celebrate the overtime game-winner. It would be a surprise if he is able to play against ASU.
The hit on Johnson took place in overtime. If Delaware wouldn’t have scored, ASU would be facing a better-rested Minot State team with its best offensive player.
But the Beavers will still have Wyatt Waselenchuk.
Minot State’s senior goalie is a big reason why the Beavers are defending national champions and where they are today. He allowed only 2.16 goals per game with a save percentage of .936.
In an interesting wrinkle, Powers recruited Waselenchuk, and Waselenchuk wanted to play at ASU, but Powers said it didn’t work out for personal reasons.
Pit Waselenchuk against ASU freshman goalie Robert Levin and the outcome is the best possible goalie matchup in the tournament, taking into account their stats and accomplishments.
“He’s good, he’s tough to beat,” Powers said of Waselenchuk. “We believe we have the best goalie in the country going though in (Levin).”
Puck drops at 4 p.m. Arizona time at Fred Rust Ice Arena.
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