(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
In the second-to-last NCAA home game of their inaugural varsity season, the Arizona State Sun Devils fell in a shootout against Division III Wisconsin Eau-Claire by a score of 4-3.
Playing against assistant coach Alex Hicks’ alma mater, ASU scored the first goal of the game and overcame multiple deficits to send it into a shootout.
“It’s funny, because you do a shootout for the fans, and they feel like they won the Stanley Cup and our guys feel like they lost it, but it doesn’t matter,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “It’s a tie and the glaring positive was that we were down a goal twice in the third period and our guys fought back to tie it.”
Both today and tomorrow’s games will give ASU a break in their schedule similar to the one they received when it played the ACHA Ohio Bobcats two weeks ago, although the team couldn’t add to the win column. The Sun Devils had been swept the previous weekend at the hands of both UMass-Lowell and Merrimack.
“We need to find energy,” Powers said. “It’s been such an up and down roller coaster of a season and our guys get up for the big games before they wear down. We are building a foundation and they have to get up for everybody.”
UWEC has a 14-5-3 record, although it has not played as strong of competition as ASU. This was its first game against a school in Division I.
A big weakness for the Sun Devils has been that teams have outshot them by a wide margin, leading to their losses. ASU bucked the trend in this time, but UWEC was no slouch at attacking the net. Ryland Pashovitz was able to handle the onslaught of shots that came his way well enough to keep ASU in the game.
“I thought Pash played pretty good,” Powers said. “His first two goals were bad bounces and the third goal was a really nice play down low by their guys.”
The Sun Devils rode an early goal by Nicholas Gushue, his third of the season, to a 1-0 lead, but the Blugolds were able to tie it up off of a power play goal from Garrett Clemment after a penalty by Matt Kennedy. The Blugolds converted on one of the two power plays that they had in the period.
Mac Janson scored an unassisted goal to give UWEC their first lead in the second period of play. The Sun Devils’ defense looked helpless as Janson skated between them at will. The rest of the action in the period was nonexistent outside of three penalties from the Blugolds, but despite an abundance of chances, ASU could not cash in against goalie Tyler Green.
The Sun Devils quickly righted the ship offensively, scoring an early third period goal off the stick of Ryan Belonger on a perfectly executed pass from Joey Raats. Roughly six minutes later, the complexion of the game changed when UWEC and the Sun Devils traded goals to tie the score at three. Garrett Clement scored his second of the game for the Blugolds, and freshman Joe Lappin found the five hole to wipe away their second deficit of the game.
The game remained scoreless the rest of the way, sending the Sun Devils into overtime for the third time in a regular season game. Neither team converted in the five minute period, forcing a shootout.
UWEC struck first in the shootout, but Ryan Belonger was able to score on the Sun Devils last chance to keep their hope alive. However, Brendan Wahlin snuck one by Pashovitz to give the Blugolds a win.
“It’s February, they have to bring energy to the rink every day,” Powers said. “It’s on them, there is nothing that I can say. Any coach will tell you here in the last month of the season, there is nothing you can do to inspire your team. They having to inspire themselves and each other and hopefully they are humbled tonight by a hard working team.”