ASU men's hockey completes series sweep over Michigan State

The Sun Devils have already surpassed their win total from last season

At this time last season, the ASU men's hockey team had two wins in 10 games. Needless to say, a lot can change in a year. Flash forward to Saturday night amidst a 2-0 shutout victory at home against Michigan State, and the tides have turned in regards to the state, and the record of the program.

ASU secured its ninth win of the season on Saturday, thus surpassing the team's entire win total from all of last season. More importantly for the Sun Devils, the win was their third consecutive victory, and their third shutout of the season.

"These guys believe in each other and they think that every time we take the ice, that we should win," ASU head coach Greg Powers said. "Players win games, and right now our guys are going out and doing what they need to do to be successful, and everybody is pulling in the same direction."

All three of ASU's shutouts this season belong to the goaltender who has started in every game between the pipes for the Sun Devils: junior Joey Daccord. On Saturday, Daccord was faced with eight Michigan State power plays due to ASU penalties.

While the outcome of coming out on the wrong side of those scenarios might seem bleak, ASU was successful in killing off all of MSU's penalties. 

Taking penalties is never recommended, but as was the case for ASU, the penalty kill shined, including when the team had to kill off a five minute major penalty that caused freshman defenseman Jarrod Gourley to be ejected at the end of the second period. 

Facing five minutes of an MSU power play and a talented first line for the Spartans, ASU rose to the challenge and did not allow a shot for the entirety of the penalty kill.

"I think especially in a game like tonight, I can't think of many saves I made at all," Daccord said. "They had 20 shots (in the whole game) and zero shots on a five minute power play. That makes my life pretty easy."

As for what made the penalty kill so effective, ASU blocked a plethora of shots and they were able to limit many grade-A chances by keeping traffic out of the way of Daccord while keeping the MSU power play unit to the perimeter of the offensive zone. 

"I think it (the penalty kill) comes down to one thing, and that's hard work," ASU junior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk said. "We were out working them, and that's what it takes to have a successful kill. The guys we have on the kill, I believe they are there for a reason ... Guys are putting the team before themselves."

Pasichnuk was a part of a stellar ASU penalty kill, and he also found himself on the offensive side of the game when he activated from his defensive zone and put home the first goal of the game on a pass from senior forward Jake Clifford during a drive to the net.

ASU's second goal of the game would come on the power play on a shot from sophomore forward Filips Buncis that slipped under the arm of the MSU goaltender and into the back of the net. The goal was Buncis' second goal in as many days, and it was a good weekend for a Sun Devil who has been accustomed to playing limited ice time due to a lot of depth on this year's roster.

"He deserves more time (on the ice). It's hard to not keep rewarding the guys that have been regulars and that we have been winning with, but Fil (Buncis), what makes him so special is he gets it," Powers said. "He is an incredible teammate, and he's making the most of his opportunities. Whether he gets a shift or he gets 20 minutes, when we win a hockey game, he is the happiest guy in that room."

Now sitting at 9-3 on the season, ASU has made more than just a soft knock on the front door of the USCHO Coaches Poll. The Sun Devils are ready to break through in the rankings, and their play is there to back up their argument. 

As noted earlier, a lot can change in just one year.

"People would always ask me when I first committed here (to ASU) my first two years, 'Why did you go there?" Pasichnuk said. "Well, it's funny how no one is asking me that now ... There are going to be absolutely incredible moments here in this program's history ... We are finally there and the results speak for themselves. We are 9-3 – an independent school upsetting Big Ten and NCHC teams, and there is way more to come."


Reach the reporter at atbell1@asu.edu or follow @AndrewBell7 on Twitter.

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