(Photo: Tyler Paley/WCSN)
Despite Canada’s friendly reputation, Friday night’s exhibition was anything but.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (5-8) defeated the University of Alberta Golden Bears (12-3-1) 5-4 in a shootout.
The Golden Bears entered the game having won eight of their last ten, the best record in the Canada West over that span.
For Arizona State, the team returned home for the first time since Oct. 24 after having been swept in Potsdam, N.Y. last weekend at the hands of Clarkson University.
Since the Golden Bears are not a member of the NCAA, the game was classified as an exhibition and therefore will not have any impact on Arizona State’s record.
Given that, the rules of an exhibition match state that if the regulation period ends in a tie, the game is therefore classified a tie regardless of the overtime period or the shootout.
With that being said, a “win” over a team of Alberta’s stature was huge for the confidence of a young, developing Arizona State program, regardless of the official result.
Robert Levin got the nod at goalie for the Sun Devils to start the series. Levin has been dealing with an ankle injury and returned from a seven-game hiatus last weekend against Clarkson. Ryland Pashovitz, however, was not dressed for the game.
“Pash is just sick,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “I don’t know what were going to do with him tomorrow, if he’s even feeling it a little bit we will probably just keep him home.”
With Pashovitz dealing with a sickness, it could be fellow freshman David Jacobson between the pipes Saturday night.
The Devils would come out of the gate rather stingy on the defensive side, as freshman Joey Raats was involved in stalling most of Alberta’s opportunities.
However, five minutes into the first period, Alberta captain Kruise Reddick was able to get one past Levin in what would prove to be an outlier in an otherwise solid defensive period for the Sun Devils.
Raats would remain involved on offense as well; his assist on Matt Kennedy’s first period goal would have been his 11th on the year.
Kennedy’s goal would tie the game at one a piece.
For the most part, the game remained clean; the first penalty of the game came on Ryan Stevens’ roughing call to start the second period.
The power play would open the door for Stephane Legault to capitalize and briefly give Alberta the lead.
Ryan Ostertag wasted no time in his rebuttal, scoring from just inches out two minutes later to knot things up yet again at two.
Ostertag would score again in the period, this time for the lead, on a breakaway started by Ryan Belonger.
For Belonger, it was his second assist of the night.
“I think our line was really clicking, we never really had a chance to play a full game together,” Ostertag said. “I really like playing with Liam [Norris] and [Belonger] so it really worked out nicely.”
Despite 25 shots on goal for the Golden Bears, the Arizona State counter-attack stayed intact. Levin continued to neutralize Alberta’s chances for the remainder of the second period and nurse his team’s 3-2 lead.
He would finish with 36 saves in almost 64 minutes.
However, 30 seconds into the third period, Reddick would net his second shot of the night to bring the back-and-forth affair back to a tie.
The game would stay a defensive gridlock until about midway through the third period. Levin had seemingly stifled the Alberta breakaway; however, the rebound shot would be put back for Alberta’s fourth score.
Powers elected to then pull Levin in favor for another attacker, with just a minute left in the game down by one.
With just seven seconds remaining in the game, Jordan Masters and Raats would set Belonger up for the game-tying goal. Belonger had three points in the game.
“I saw the puck get wrapped around, Raats threw it around, saw Masters was going to be the first one to retrieve it,” Belonger said. “I think me along with everyone else on the ice was just heading to the front of the net, I knew there wasn’t much time left. Luckily it bounced off of his shin pad and wound up on my tape.”
After the tug-of-war regulation period, the teams skated back onto the ice for a five minute overtime period. Given the nature of the first three periods, it came as no surprise that the extra period wasn’t any different. While the Devils had a three-on-four power play opportunity, Alberta’s defense bended, but didn’t break and sent the game into a shoot-out.
After shootout goals from Masters and Charlie Zuccarini to go with a huge stop by Levin, the Devils had sealed the deal.
“Every game, especially against teams of that caliber, exhibition or non-exhibition it doesn’t matter, that’s what would be a really good NCAA team,” Powers said. “Every chance we get to play a team like that, and God-forbid, give ourselves a chance to win, is great for our young program.”
The exhibition series will conclude tomorrow night at Oceanside Ice Arena as the Devils will look to complete the sweep – a sweep that will only count as a moral victory.