(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
In the final matchup, at least for quite some time, between the Arizona State Sun Devils and in-state rival Arizona Wildcats, the Sun Devils rode a hat trick from Joe Lappin to a decisive 6-0 victory.
ASU has now won 49 of its last 50 match-ups against the Wildcats, including two wins against them this season. The hostile crowd at the Tucson Convention Center did not appear to bother the Sun Devils, who set the tone early and did not look back.
“It was special, it was good,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “We weren’t very crisp, but we wore them down and had a nice, convincing win in our last game in Tucson.”
Due to the Wildcats ACHA status, they are unlikely to be included on the Sun Devils schedule in the years to come. It also meant that the game is an exhibition, so it will not count towards ASU’s record.
For the first time all year, Patrick Yudez dressed and got time on the ice. He had been injured all season long up until the game.
“It’s been such a long journey, so it’s good to finally come full circle,” Yudez said. “It was a good experience to finally get one in after such a long season.”
The game was mired by physical play, especially in the offensive zone of the ice. Jordan Masters specifically was dishing out big hits throughout the game, including some that resulted in penalties.
The Sun Devils scored two goals in each period, with a pair of even strength goals in the first from Ryan Ostertag and Jake Clifford.
Their hot streak continued into the second period as Wildcats goalie Austin Wilson had no answer for ASU’s offense. Even when they were shorthanded, the Sun Devils were able to find the back of the net off of Lappin’s first goal of the game. Hobey Baker Award nominee Jordan Masters added goal number two of the period.
“It’s tough for an ACHA team to compete consistently for 60 minutes against us,” Powers said. “They came out and had some good energy until we wore them down. Getting out to a good start on the scoreboard was nice, but we didn’t really start that well.”
While ASU held the advantage goal-wise for the entire game, Arizona played right with the Sun Devils, only trailing in shots 18-17 after two periods. Powers placed goalie Robert Levin in a comfortable situation, as he was the primary goalie for ASU the last two years in the ACHA, and Levin responded with arguably his strongest game of the season.
Lappin took over in the final period, scoring his second goal in the first few minutes before completing the hat trick midway through.
“It felt great,” Lappin said. “I got lucky and they are starting to go in.”
The chippiness between the teams was featured prominently, as three fights between the teams were teased, although neither came to fruition. However, Eric Rivard was ejected from the game as a result of stepping on a stick of a Wildcats player. Masters was also ejected with just five seconds left in regulation.
“It’s just U of A and ASU,” Powers said. “All the guys who really scrummed it up for us, like Rivs, have been around this rivalry, and it’s just what Rivs does, he pisses other teams off, and he did tonight. It was a fitting ending to his career at U of A.”
While the two teams won’t be seeing each other on the ice anytime soon, there is clearly no love lost between either school.