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ASU Hockey goes viral as a result of late game brawl against Alaska-Fairbanks

The Sun Devils season is all but over but the extracurriculars on the ice were at an all time high last weekend in Alaska


ASU senior forward Robert Mastrosimone (94) fights for the puck against at the against an Alaska Fairbanks defender Mullett Arena on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Tempe. ASU lost 4-2.

To many, the sight of two players dropping the gloves for a fight at center ice in a heated moment in an NHL game is something met with excitement. 

Something that is rarely seen is the same level of fighting in college hockey. So, when two players left the penalty box late in the third period in a game between Arizona State and Alaska-Fairbanks for a heavyweight match at center ice, the video went viral. The incident sparked conversation about whether fighting should be allowed in college hockey. 

"It got completely out of control," ASU hockey head coach Greg Powers said.

In what was a scrappy game that ASU was on its way to losing with just 11 seconds left down by two goals, a melee broke out between the two teams.

While referees on the ice were tending to the "fights" that had broken out, ASU sophomore defenseman Tucker Ness and Alaska graduate student defenseman Dawson Bruneski came to the decision to leave their penalty boxes and fight one-on-one at center ice. 

Ness and Bruneski were each handed indefinite suspensions for their actions in that Friday night game in Alaska, but Powers took it a step further, shutting down Ness' season for the remaining four games. Over the 18 games played, Ness tallied two points with two assists. Bruneski was also suspended indefinitely from team activities. 

"It's not indicative of Tucker Ness' character, and it was out of character for him," Powers said. "He's a good kid and a good human. He made a really, really poor decision, as did (Bruneski), and they are both paying the consequences of it, and there has to be consequences."

The Sun Devils have played Alaska-Fairbanks plenty in their time as an independent program. With their season on the line, they took the trip to Fairbanks, and it was clear there would be rising tensions. Friday's loss all but officially killed their chances at the postseason and may have been the spark that ignited the late-game rumble. 

READ MORE: ASU hockey's NCAA tournament odds are less than favorable despite season success

"I think it kicked in (that our season was ending), and tempers flared," senior forward Matthew Kopperud said. "That's what happens in hockey. I think I've played that team 12 times in four years, so eventually that's going to happen, and it did."

Fighting in hockey has been around as long as the sport has. The very first game of indoor ice hockey, played in 1875, ended in a fight between players and fans. Fifteen years later, fans witnessed the first documented fight during a game, and the tradition continues to blossom today at most levels.

In recent years, the pros and cons of fighting in hockey have been a hot topic. In the 2006-2007 NHL season, there were 384 games that had a fight, according to ESPN. But in the 2018-2019 season, less than 200 games included a brawl, emphasizing the decline of the custom along with increased awareness for player safety.

The one-on-one between Ness and Bruneski had the internet ablaze whether college hockey should inherit one of the oldest traditions in hockey. The discipline from the Big 10, CCHA, and respective coaching staffs show an overwhelming agreement that fighting does not belong, at least at this level of the sport. 

"People want to criticize the suspension for players that fight, but at the end of the day, fighting is not allowed in college," Powers said. 

"I don't think at any level of hockey you will be able to stop the heat of the moment things from happening … that’s all part of the game. But leaving the box with time still on a penalty while the officials are tending to a scrum, that doesn't happen, and it shouldn't happen, and that’s why I dealt with it the way I did."

Edited by Alfred Smith III, Shane Brennan and Caera Learmonth.

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