ASU men's hockey earns its first win in exhibition game

The Sun Devils start the season with a 4-1 win over NAIT

ASU men’s hockey earned its first victory of the season when it beat the Northern Alberta Institute for Technology Ooks 4-1 in its first and only exhibition game of the year.

"We just wanted to come out and get a win,” head coach Greg Powers said.  “It was good because it was close for a while – we felt some pressure. We got a lot of special teams action.”

The game was a defensive battle in the first period, and a physical tone was set quickly as the Sun Devils got their first power play less than three minutes into the first period. 

The second power play unit ended with freshman forward Johnny Walker scoring with an assist from redshirt senior forward David Norris with 3:57 remaining in the period. 

“The most important part (is) to not only have individual success, but as a line and as a team, you’ve got to be able to gel and work well together,” Walker said

The first period was not filled with a lot of quality scoring chances, but this changed as the Sun Devils came out with a significant amount of pressure in the offensive zone. 

The Ooks were almost immediately given a power play, but a penalty kill increased the Sun Devil’s momentum.

“The kill was pretty good,” Powers said. “I thought our forecheck was pretty good. For the limited amount of time our guys have had practicing and playing together, we’re happy with the effort and we have a long way to go.”

ASU followed that with an extended visit around NAIT’s net where freshman forward Filips Buncis, with assists from Walker and graduate student and forward Gage Hough, snatched the team’s second goal of the game with 15:21 left in the second period.

“I just realized there was a lot of open space and a high slot right in front of the net,” Buncis said. “Johnny (Walker) made a really good pass in the slot, right in my wheelhouse, and I just had to put the puck in.” 

However, the Ooks responded quickly with freshman forward Thomas Foster breaking ASU sophomore goalie Joey Daccord’s shut out less than two minutes later on another NAIT power play.

"We just want to continue to outwork the other team every time on the penalty kill,” sophomore defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk said. “That’s the only way we’re going to have success on that special team.”

Powers then rotated junior goalie Ryland Pashovitz in for Daccord halfway through the second period because he wanted to review the performances of both his goalies.  

“We got to see them more tonight than we have for almost an entire month,” Powers said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think one of the shining moments was how both of our goalies played. They both looked sharp and steady.”

ASU kept producing chances as the period continued, which resulted in another goal from sophomore forward Brett Gruber with an assist from sophomore forward Tyler Busch with 3:16 to go in the second. 

“We just buckled down. We knew we were better skaters; we were stronger and that we could just outwork them,” Buncis said “That’s what we did – we came out and played strong, kept it simple, got pucks in and pucks out, and I think it paid off.”

The third period intensified into a slew of penalty kills and power plays, but ASU still got the upper hand when Pasichnuk scored on a 4-on-3 man advantage from an assist from junior defenseman Jakob Stridsberg with 1:38 remaining in the game. 

“It boosts our confidence. It’s a great way to start the season off,” Pasichnuk said. “For our freshman it’s their first taste of college hockey so something like that is just going to boost everyone’s morale.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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