Video by Justin Emerson | Sports Reporter
NEWARK, Del.— No one said a national championship run would be easy.
It took a third-period rally against No. 5 Stony Brook in the quarterfinals Monday, but ASU hockey won 4-3 and advanced to the national championship game for the first time in school history.
“It doesn’t matter how you get it done here,” ASU coach Greg Powers said. “It’s survive and advance and that’s what we did.”
It was far from ASU’s prettiest game of the season. There were costly turnovers by ASU’s best defensive pairing, the Sun Devil goalie’s worst statistical game and three goals in less than five minutes. But at the end of the day, ASU will play Tuesday night for the national title.
ASU trailed 3-2 entering the third period. At the five-minute mark of that period, ASU senior captain Colin Hekle unleashed a hellacious slap shot which was blocked by Stony Brook junior defenseman Chris Joseph’s wrist at point-blank range.
While Joseph was slowly getting off the ice, five Sun Devils took on the four remaining Seawolves. There was a whirlwind of sticks and bodies, but it was ASU junior forward Faiz Khan who tied the game.
“I just had to paddle through sticks,” Khan said.
Joseph did not return to the game.
At that point, it became a dogfight. Players on both teams abandoned any worry of getting hurt and started getting in front of pucks like their tournament lives depended on it. It was hard, clean hockey — it was physical but no penalties were called.
Then with just over four minutes left, the tie was broken. ASU senior forwards Troy Scott and David Jantzie chased the puck into the attacking zone. After a scrum in front of the net, Scott went behind the net to corral the puck. He shot it in front of the net and it pinballed off Jantzie’s stick and between the goaltender.
“Finally,” Jantzie said. “We have been in this position before to go to the finals and we’ve let it slip from our hands.”
Stony Brook pulled its goalie with 50 seconds left in the game. The Seawolves applied a good amount of pressure with the extra man, but it wasn’t enough. ASU held on to win 4-3.
“We were feeling good going into this game,” Powers said. “Certainly we were in a position we didn’t expect to be in, but that’s only going to make us better come tomorrow.”
The last five minutes of the second period almost proved deadly. With a 2-1 lead, ASU sophomore defenseman Brett Blomgren whiffed on a clearing attempt in front of his own net. The result was Wes Hawkins alone in front of the ASU net. Stony Brook’s senior forward tied the game.
Later in the frame, a pass in his own zone from ASU freshman defenseman Drew Newmeyer was intercepted by Stony Brook junior forward Nick Barbera and sent deep to the opposite blue line where his teammate junior forward Vincent Lopes was waiting. Lopes entered the zone all alone and fired a slap shot from the right circle that found twine.
“They were bad giveaways,” Powers said. “Our ‘D’ really laid an egg there in the second period.”
Freshman goalie Robert Levin had not allowed three goals in a game all season before Monday’s game. He allowed three in the second period alone.
Powers said he wasn’t at all worried going into the third period down by a goal.
“I just said there’s no way we’re losing this game,” he said. “There’s not a chance we’re losing this game. We’re going to go out there, we’re going to win, and you’re going to go figure it out.”
ASU will play the winner of No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Robert Morris. The Sun Devils will play Tuesday at 5 p.m. Arizona time.
And the winner gets to hold the Murdoch Cup over their heads.
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