(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
ASU put Thursday night’s loss to rest, demolishing the Central Oklahoma Bronchos 7-2 in a match-up between the first and second-ranked teams in the nation.
Arizona State was bested 7-4 by the Bronchos earlier this season, meaning this was a must-win for the Sun Devils who were looking to hold off the No. 2 Bronchos and prevent a potential drop in their national ranking.
“You always want a big win,” head coach Greg Powers said. “We did it against the number two team in the nation. If we can do it against them, we can do it against anyone.”
Senior forward Liam Norris came into this game as a player to watch. With 34 total points he has been ASU’s most potent source of offense this season. He and forward Ryan Belonger, who leads ASU with 14 goals, had to get things going early on in order to slow center Michael Rivera and the Broncos.
The last time ASU took on UCO, junior Michael Rivera netted three of his eight season goals.
Defense was the story right out of the gate. UCO would get on the board first after forward Brandon Harlet scored his ninth goal of the season off an assist from UCO points leader Gaven Hohl 11 minutes into the first period.
It would only take ASU four minutes to tie things up after forward Ryan Belonger netted his fifteenth goal of the season thanks to an assist from defenseman Connor Schmidt. The match would stay physical resulting in multiple penalties assessed to both teams, including Schmidt who received a two-minute penalty for roughing.
The tie, however, would be broken with roughly a minute left in the first period thanks to a huge steal from forward Liam Norris behind the UCO net, and then the quick dish to forward Eric Rivard who would capitalize on the heads-up defensive play.
The second period would start with a slashing penalty from Trevor LeBlanc, earning him two minutes in the penalty box. ASU would then go on the 5-4 power play, leading to a Sean Murphy goal from Norris, the third goal of the contest for ASU.
“I’ve just been focused on shooting more instead of waiting for my opportunities,” Murphy said.“It’s been working out for me.”
The Bronchos would answer back two minutes later with a power play goal from defenseman Chad Roorda for his fifth goal of the season. The scoring barrage wouldn’t stop there. Murphy would net yet another shot for his second goal of the game, giving ASU a 4-2 lead over UCO nine minutes into the period.
Down two goals with a period left to play, UCO had little margin for error if they wanted to bounce the Devils on their home ice.
ASU would pick up right where they left off, scoring a minute into the third period thanks to Rivard’s second goal of the night.
The Sun Devils scored twice more in the third period, earning their twenty-third win.
“We were all over them in the offensive zone from start to finish,” Murphy said. “That gave our team a lot of momentum.”
The two teams will face off yet again tomorrow night at Oceanside Arena. Puck drops at 7:30 at Oceanside Ice Arena. Catch the live broadcast at http://www.cronkitesports.com/live-broadcasts/.