(Photo: Gabrilelle Mercer/WCSN)
For the first time since the team’s jump to the NCAA ranks, the Arizona State Sun Devils played the role of the aggressor.
It wasn’t even close.
Thanks to an Anthony Croston hat trick in the first period, the Sun Devils rolled past the Southern New Hampshire Penmen 11-0 on Friday night in a game that was reminiscent of the team’s days in the ACHA.
Arizona State swept the Penmen in two games last season at Oceanside Ice Arena by a combined margin of 16-3 – and nothing much had changed this season.
For weeks, ASU head coach Greg Powers talked about the impact of playing such a tough schedule and the role that it would play in the team’s progression. It doesn’t seem as though anyone is doubting that at this point.”
“I think it shows a lot of people how far we’ve come,” Powers said. “You play at a pace and you have to adjust to a young program and a young team and you see when you can consistently play at that pace, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you know, and that’s what our guys have to learn.
Aside from Croston, eight other players scored goals in the contest. The offense was a product of a balanced attack that required the contributions of everyone on the ice.
After all, the team’s first collegiate shutout, courtesy of senior goaltender Robert Levin, wouldn’t have been possible without the amount of breathing room.
“There’s not a kid that I would rather have [the team’s first NCAA shutout] than Rob Levin,” Powers said. “He deserves to have that so I’m glad he got it.”
Ryan Belonger also contributed with his first goal of the season, one of the few remaining players from the team’s time at the club level
“It was good to see him get a goal,” Powers said. “I’m happy that he got one, hopefully he gets a couple more before he’s done.”
Arizona State lost Robbie Bailargeon, the Sun Devils’ leading scorer, to a shoulder injury late in the third period.
“We’re gonna go look at him right now,” Powers said. “I think he’s fine, I think it was probably just a bruise, you know, it got a little chippy there at the end, like it normally does in games like that, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
The Sun Devil defense gave the Penmen no opportunity, as Southern Newhampshire only got off 14 shots on goal.
Powers was more than pleased with his team’s defensive effort.
“I thought it was good,” Powers said. “I though our gaps were a little bit lax and need to be a little bit tighter than they were, but I think they had maybe one grade-A, so it was pretty good.”
Arizona State will take on the Penmen one more time on Saturday night before traveling to Connecticut yet again to face the Bobcats of Quinnipiac in a two-game series.
“In my opinion, really good programs beat teams that they’re supposed to beat consistently,” Powers said. “That’s what we always did, before we went to NCAA, we rarely lost to somebody that, we rarely lost period, but we rarely lost to anybody that we should have and so I’m happy.”