(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
In what fit its billing as a heavyweight title fight at Oceanside Arena, the Sun Devils defeated their longtime rivals the University of Arizona Wildcats by a final score of 5-1.
This was Arizona State’s first game this season against a Division 1 school, and the 20th-ranked Wildcats brought their token brand of sometimes-questionable physical play to Tempe in hopes of ending the dreaded 32-game losing streak. The Sun Devils made it clear why they are the No. 2 team in the country, and why that streak will stand for at least another day.
The Sun Devils did not score as quickly as in games past, but a Patrick Yudez goal with 13:36 remaining in the first period was quickly followed by another from Colin Hekle, just two minutes and ten seconds later.
In the second period, Jordan Young started the special teams scoring, ripping a wrist shot by Arizona goaltender Dylan Hojnacki. The Wildcats got on the board late in the period on a goal by Grant Nicholson, making it 3-1 after two.
The third period is when the game took the form of a typical ASU-UA tilt. After a Zach Holstrom goal set up by the beautiful passing of linemates Chris Burkemper and Yudez, Arizona’s David Rizk took a run at Holstrom from behind while Holstrom was facing the boards by the Sun Devil bench. Tempers flared, and Rizk wound up with a five-minute major penalty for hitting from behind and a game misconduct. Hekle, the biggest player on the ice by a large margin, stood up for his team and continued to send Wildcats to the ice with crushing hits.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary that it’s kind of chippy and the mouths start running against this team,” said Hekle of the Wildcats’ style of play. “I’m used to it.”
Hekle was almost injured in a similar scenario against the same team last year.
It was the chippy play of the Wildcats that led to their demise, creating four power plays for the Sun Devils. ASU capitalized on two of them, as Alex Temby eventually scored on Rizk’s major penalty in the third.
“We’re focused on winning hockey games. We don’t get caught up in the BS,” said Arizona State coach Greg Powers. “That’s how they play, but we’re worried about winning hockey games.”
Temby, Yudez and Holstrom each recorded a goal and an assist in the win, while Kale Dolinski tallied two assists.
Dolinski recognized one line’s efforts in particular after the game. “I’ve got to hand it to Holstrom, Yudez and Burkemper today. They played unbelievable.”
Freshman Holstrom’s line, the fourth line on Powers’ roster, exemplifies the extreme depth on the Arizona State roster. The center now has nine points in his first four games in the form of two goals and seven assists.
Despite a single blemish, goaltender Joe D’Elia turned in another stellar performance, stopping 18 of 19 Wildcat shots.
Tomorrow’s game will see freshman Robert Levin in net, but it is not a knock on D’Elia’s play. “Robert will start tomorrow, but Joe played well,” Powers commented. “It wasn’t anything that he did, but I want to get Levin in tomorrow.”
Notable scorer Sean Murphy was not in the lineup tonight, due to a violation of team rules. Michael Cummings took his place on Hekle and Faiz Khan’s line. When asked to comment on the situation, Powers simply stated, “Murph will be back tomorrow.”
The Wildcats will have to make big adjustments for tomorrow’s game, but most importantly, they will have to stay out of the penalty box. Tune in tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. to http://www.cronkitesports.com/live-broadcasts/ and see if the Sun Devils lengthen the streak to 34 games.