ACHA Sun Devil hockey rebounds vs. NCAA Penn St.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Hekle
After a distressing loss, teams will either use it to their advantage or let it hinder their next performance.
For the ASU hockey team (19-1), they opted for the former response Saturday. The Sun Devils took it to NCAA D-I Penn State (7-6) for a 3-1 victory in Happy Valley, Pa., following a Friday night blowout.
“We had a different mindset,” junior forward Kale Dolinski said. “We were let down after last night, but we knew we had a clean slate and everything to gain.”
ASU coach Greg Powers knew his team had to correct those uncharacteristic mistakes to prove they belonged on the same ice with the Nittany Lions.
“Tonight, we played almost mistake-free hockey,” Powers said. “Our guys wanted to prove to everyone we could compete and win at this level, and that is exactly what they did.”
The Sun Devils needed to change a few things from the prior night, to compete physically and clean up the loose pucks in the crease. Penn State capitalized on rebounds the night before, leading to several of the Nittany Lions’ eight goals.
“We had to be more physical and take care of the front of our net,” Powers said. “We really did a good job out-hitting them all night and being more physical.”
Powers also continued to preach the mindset of playing a full game beginning to end, and the team stood by it.
“We played 60 minutes (tonight),” Dolinski said. “We only had spurts of 20 minutes (last night), but tonight everyone was on key.”
One Sun Devil who played a top-to-bottom game was junior goaltender Joseph D’Elia.
He had an unusual game between the pipes on Friday night by giving up four goals in the first period and a half, but the professional inside him arose Saturday night in a comeback performance.
“I didn’t know too much about who was starting going into today (Saturday),” D’Elia said. “I just let it go and had a normal day before coach (Powers) let me know I was starting. I knew I had to step up, and (I) had fun with it.”
D’Elia became a vacuum, scooping everything in front of him and refusing the Nittany Lions any second-chance opportunities.
“We came to play tonight,” D’Elia said.
Powers couldn’t have been happier with his junior goaltender and knew he could count on D’Elia.
“He made all the big saves,” Powers said. “To do that and bounce back after struggling last night is so impressive. I couldn’t be happier and more proud of the kid.”
Regardless of the game being an exhibition match and outside of the ACHA, the Sun Devils took this series just as serious — if not more — as the rest.
“Every game is crucial,” D’Elia said. “This win solidifies us at the top.”
The Sun Devils put another three goals passed Penn State replacement sophomore goalie P.J. Musico.
Dolinski accounted for the two go-ahead goals to lead the Sun Devils consistent scoring attack.
“This was the most memorable win of my hockey career,” Dolinski said.
Sophomore forward Faiz Khan also put one in the back of the net to tie Dolinski and senior forward Dan Styrna for the team’s leading scorers against Penn State over the weekend with two apiece.
A handful of ACHA teams sent their praises to ASU over Twitter, and the Sun Devil hockey program realizes the magnitude and significance of this victory.
“By far, our program’s best win,” Powers said. “Not even close.”
Sun Devils suffer first loss of the season
At some point, every winning streak has to come to an end, and for ASU, that time came on Friday night in Happy Valley, Pa.
Penn State outshot and outscored the Sun Devils, leading to an 8-3 blistering by the Nittany Lions.
ASU was outshot 52-27, which was only the second time the Sun Devils attempted less goals all season. And the Nittany Lions were firing on all cylinders.
“Penn State was absolutely the better hockey team,” coach Powers said.
Before the series started, the Sun Devils had referred to Penn State’s dominance around the net. The Nittany Lions reputation definitely preceded them.
Penn State crashed the net, putting every loose they could scrounge-up passed junior goaltenders Joseph D’Elia and Kyle Dietriech.
“They are really good playing a simple game of throwing shots on net and crashing hard,” Powers said. “We all have off nights.”
Both goaltenders may not have had the greatest of nights, but it may have been the best night of the season to have one.
“It doesn’t count for anything,” Powers said. “It shouldn’t have been that much of a deficit.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org