(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
As their season heads towards the finish line, the Sun Devils have loaded their extremely tough schedule with some easier matchups. Part of the break in their slate of games include an exhibition game against ACHA opponent Liberty, who they easily handled on Saturday night for a 7-0 win.
With the regular season slate done and the Sun Devils at an underwhelming 5-22-2 record, ASU will finish off its season with four exhibition games. That stretch started off strong with the victory over the Flames, who have just a 12-15-2 record in ACHA play.
The exhibition matchup allowed head coach Greg Powers to take a break from his normal goalie rotation of Robert Levin and Ryland Pashovitz and start David Jacobson, who had started just two NCAA games during the season.
The freshman Jacobson responded admirably, surrendering no goals and saving 15 shots to give him a shutout. He had a 3.32 goals against average in seven total games during the NCAA schedule.
“He was steady,” Powers said. “He probably tried to involve himself a little too much at times with the puck, but that’s what DJ does.”
ASU only scored one goal in the first period, a wrist shot from Ryan Belonger that got past Flames goalie Matt Pinel. They had a chance for a few more because of penalties by Liberty, but ASU could not cash in on three powerplay attempts.
Powers was not pleased with the Sun Devils lackluster first period, but liked that they improved every period.
“You like to see the progression,” he said. “That’s what we were trying to do. We were trying to improve in every period. It’s odd for our guys, because guys got the puck and had time and space and they just aren’t used to that. They need to get back to developing that killer instinct.”
The Sun Devils quickly padded their lead in the second period on a Liam Norris goal. Belonger was also able to earn his second point of the game on the goal. He then raised his point total in the game to three by assisting on a slapshot powerplay goal by freshman defenseman Nicholas Gushue.
Throughout the entire game but primarily in the first two periods, ASU was able to outshoot Liberty by a significant amount of shots. After the first period, the Sun Devils had the shot advantage 15-8. That gap widened to 32-14 after the second period.
“After the first, we were trying to have a better second, after the second we wanted to have a better third,” Powers said. “That was the message. More shots, more goals.”
The shot barrage and early goals took pressure off of Jacobson, who didn’t necessarily have a tough task when compared to the other match-ups ASU has had, but earned the shutout nonetheless.
“It feels great,” Jacobson said. “Shutouts aren’t only a personal thing, they are a team thing, so to shut them out for 60 minutes, it was great.”
Anthony Croston was responsible for ASU’s fourth goal of the game, which came in the third period. Pinel, who entered the game with a 4.25 GAA, saw that number rise on the Sun Devils fifth goal of the game, this time by Joe Lappin. He finished with two points in the game.
Frustration reached a peak for the Flames towards the end of the third period, when defenseman Jackson Giammona earned a game misconduct for a hit to the head, which resulted in an ejection. It was the sixth penalty of the game for the Flames as opposed to the two committed by the Sun Devils.
ASU put the cherry on top when forwards Cody Gylling and Ryan Ostertag scored, making it seven different Sun Devils to find the back of the net to help give ASU a much needed win.
The Sun Devils will be off until next Friday, when they will travel down south to Tucson for another ACHA matchup against the Arizona Wildcats.