ASU men's hockey beats Northern Michigan University 7-3 in the Ice Vegas Invitational

The Sun Devils will move to the championships in their inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational

ASU men’s hockey (5-12-4) won 7-3 against Northern Michigan University (11-10-2) in the first round of the Ice Vegas Invitational on Friday, sending the Sun Devils to the championship in their inaugural year at the tournament. 

“We closed out and it was great to see,” head coach Greg Powers said. “Tomorrow we get to go for program first and try and win a tournament. We’re going to leave it all out there.”

With the victory in Las Vegas, the Sun Devils broke a two-game losing streak following 6-0 and 4-1 losses in last week’s Three Rivers Classic.

ASU started the game with a surge of offense as redshirt junior forward Dylan Hollman scored with 16:17 remaining in the first with an assist from redshirt senior forward David Norris

This was Hollman’s first goal since a game against Alabama Huntsville on Nov. 3.

“We had a simple game tonight and that’s the type of hockey we want to play,” junior forward Anthony Croston said. “Hopefully, we keep that up tomorrow and keep it up for the rest of the year because it’s going to help us win some games.”

Croston scored ASU’s second goal with assists from junior defenseman Jakob Stridsberg and freshman defenseman Max Balinson less than two minutes after the first.

Croston struck again not long after to net ASU’s third goal of the game with assists from sophomore defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk and sophomore forward Tyler Busch. This game marks Croston’s first multi-goal game of the season thus far. 

“We wanted to change how we play hockey,” Croston said. ”Obviously, the beginning of the year wasn’t how we wanted to play so we got back to our identity and it helped us get a pretty big win tonight.”

ASU showed some struggles during the second period as Northern Michigan junior defenseman James Vermeulen got the team's first goal of the night at 12:02 from with assists from freshman defenseman Robert Fosdick and senior forward Zach Diamantoni.

“We still haven’t put together a 60 minute effort. Tonight was probably 40,” Powers said. “The second period they took it to us pretty good and Dax (sophomore goalie Joey Daccord) held us in it."

The Sun Devils started the third period with a 5-on-3 power play that led to a goal from redshirt junior forward Louie Rowe, assisted by freshman forward Johnny Walker and  freshman defenseman Jacob Wilson.  

“If you get a two-minute five on three and you don’t score on it, it gives them tons of life, tons of momentum…you could feel the air starting to be put back into their bench,” Powers said. “Then, we got that fourth one and it was over from there.”

Sun Devils soon got their fifth goal of the game from graduate student forward Gage Hough with an assist from Pasichnuk with 13:32 remaining in the third period. 

Gage Hough scored again on his next shift with assists from Balinson and Stridsberg. 

“We’ve been struggling to score. Veterans know that and I just try to bring my experience, my age,” Hough said. “The other guys bring the same and I think they try to being their leadership to try and produce offense. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, sometimes it does. Tonight, we were fortunate it did happen and we’re going to try and build off that.”

Northern Michigan did not give up as the leading goal scorer in Div. 1 hockey, senior forward Robbie Payne, scored NMU's second goal of the game with assists from junior defenseman Ryan Black and freshman forward Joseph Nardi

Soon after, NMU chipped away at the deficit even more with a goal by sophomore forward Darien Craighead, assisted by junior forward Troy Loggins.

"Our defensive zone was pretty solid today,” Croston said. “We had  little mistakes there, but we’ve been working on it a lot especially this past week and we focused on getting back to our defensive styles so this was a good game for us defensively.”

ASU would answer back one last time, as Pasichnuk got the team’s seventh goal with assists from Rowe and junior defenseman Jake Clifford

“It’s nice to have it. You know, for Cro (Croston) to pop those two in the first and for Hollman to get it. Brinny (Pasichnuk) had a huge game tonight,” Powers said. “Our captains lead the way and again, you can’t just make up leadership- it has to evolve naturally and it has to take shape naturally.”

Northern Michigan closed out the game on the power play, but the Sun Devils killed it to make the finalize the win at 7-3. This was the season's highest scoring game for the Sun Devils.

ASU will play in the championship game tomorrow against Michigan Tech (11-8-5) at 8:30 p.m. PT. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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