The ASU women’s hockey team was in for a challenge this weekend when they traveled to take on the defending American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) National Champions at Miami University (Ohio).
For the Sun Devils, the weekend’s games were a measuring stick of where the program is at compared to one of the nation’s elite programs.
In addition to the competition, the weekend served as a special one for head coach Lindsey Ellis, who won an ACHA National Title with the RedHawks and is now hoping to reciprocate a similar program on the West Coast at ASU.
ASU dropped the first game of its two-game set with Miami 4-0 at the Goggin Ice Arena on Friday night.
“I think it was just people being out of position and people not being able to get to their spot,” Ellis said. “You can’t use being tired as an excuse.”
Although the score might not indicate the end result, ASU played competitive hockey in the first period.
ASU had a variety of scoring chances in the opening frame but couldn’t get the puck past Miami’s freshman goaltender, Erin Sparks.
Sparks made a variety of timely saves during ASU’s first couple of shifts, and that set the stage for the latter half of the game.
Although the Sun Devils had bright spots such as killing a five-on-three Miami power play in the second period, the RedHawks ultimately controlled the puck and played their style of hockey against a small ASU roster.
“They can’t be elsewhere. Either compete or don’t,” Ellis said after Friday night’s loss. “If they (the players) want to make an excuse, then they aren’t doing it for their team ... we need to compete 100 percent of the time.”
Ultimately, ASU showed signs of promise on Friday, but timely miscues and Miami puck possession led to ASU’s demise.
While ASU had flashes of brightness against one of the ACHA’s best opponents on Friday, Saturday was the game the Sun Devils would like to forget.
ASU fell to Miami 10-1, and the RedHawks outshot the Sun Devils 52-17 in a dominating performance.
“That’s not how we know how to play hockey,” ASU junior forward Taylor England said. “The more that they kept scoring, the more that we were getting down on ourselves.”
The 10 goals were the most that ASU has given up all season, and the Sun Devils were stymied by Miami from the opening puck drop.
Just over five minutes into the game, Miami senior forward Kathleen Baldwin lit the lamp for the RedHawks.
Although the RedHawks controlled the game, ASU felt that there was more the team could have done in front of their sophomore goaltender Jordan Nash-Boulden.
“When we are down ten to zero, it’s hard (to play),” ASU freshman forward Catherine Jones said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, it’s just that you have to give it your all ... Tonight we should have picked up more players and picked up their sticks because those goals were rebounds.”
Jones ended up tallying the lone goal for the Sun Devils late in the third period, but the game was far out of reach.
Nevertheless, the trip to Ohio was a learning experience for a team with a small roster.
ASU has a full recruiting class coming into next season, and Ellis was left with a bittersweet homecoming at her alma mater.
ASU has already clinched a playoff berth to the Western Women’s Collegiate Hockey League (WWCHL) playoffs, and while the games with the RedHawks might have left a mark on the scoreboard, they ultimately have no effect on ASU’s postseason outlook.
“This was a great experience for our girls just to show the potential of where we can possibly be at in a few short years,” ASU assistant coach Katie McGovern said of Miami. “It’s good motivation to just work hard.”
Up next, ASU will look to salvage a game on its Ohio road trip when the Sun Devils travel just down the road to Columbus to take on Ohio State on Sunday. Puck drop is slated for 11 a.m. CST.
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