No one said being ranked number one would be easy.
Heading into the 3rd period of Saturday night’s contest, the Arizona State Sun Devils found themselves in an unfamiliar situation. With a 12-0 record, the Sun Devils had dominated nearly every game of the season so far. Despite three convincing wins over the Arizona Wildcats this season, the Sun Devils labored to a 1-1 tie through the first two periods in Tucson.
Searching for an answer, Arizona State sophomore Faiz Khan delivered. Khan scooped up a Wildcat clearance attempt and connected on a top shelf shot that gave the Sun Devils a 2-1 lead. When Brian McGinty snuck the puck through a scrum of defenders around the Wildcats goal later on, the Sun Devils wrapped up a 3-1 victory.
The Sun Devils upped their Cactus Cup streak to 28 consecutive victories over the Wildcats, but this weekend’s victories helped forge a new, more significant streak.
Defending their No. 1 ranking, the Sun Devils are 2-0.
Through 19 seasons at the Division I level, Arizona State has achieved great heights, but this Sun Devil team continues to soar above and beyond.
In 1993, Arizona State hockey achieved Division 1 status. The future of club sports at the collegiate level is often uncertain, but the efforts and dedication from the Sun Devil faithful helped the sport played on ice survive in the desert. One look at the current rankings will show that hockey at Arizona State is not just surviving; it’s flourishing.
With an illustrious history that includes eight Division 1 All-Americans, nine ACHA National tournament appearances, and numerous chances to reach the top spot in the rankings, a breakthrough was long overdue.
Last week, it finally happened.
The Sun Devils opened the 2012 season with an 11-0 record that included seven victories over top 25 teams. When the previously top ranked Ohio Bobcats fell to the Liberty Flames in week five, the Sun Devils became the only remaining unbeaten team in the ACHA. Less than a week after Ohio’s loss, the voters acknowledged the Sun Devils’ accomplishment by rewarding them with the No. 1 ranking.
When Arizona State took the ice in Tucson on Friday night, the Cactus Cup rivalry took on a whole new meaning. State bragging rights were on the line in the midst of a newfound national image.
The stat sheet from Saturday night’s affair helps tell the story of Arizona State’s rise to prominence. Senior Dan Styrna set the tone for the night with an early goal, and newcomers Faiz Khan and Brian McGinty capped the scoring and the transition of power.
Along with all the members of the previous Sun Devil hockey teams, Styrna helped build this Sun Devil hockey program into a contender. Khan and McGinty are two new faces that appear ready to take Arizona State to a new level.
Armed with a 13-0 record, the No. 1 spot in the polls, and the most talented recruiting class in program history, a new era is dawning. In the new era, the Sun Devils are 2-0.