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ASU Hockey: Sun Devils’ penalty kill falls apart in 5-3 loss to Quinnipiac

(Photo: Kylee Meter/WCSN)

Heading into Saturday’s game against Quinnipiac, the Sun Devil hockey team was ranked No. 13 in the nation on the penalty kill, but the Bobcats converted on three power plays on their way to a 5-3 win in Glendale.

“In the first period on one of their power plays, we had the puck on our tape seven times in our zone – seven times – and didn’t get it out,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “So our killers were just not intense enough, and it’s like I said last night, power plays have to commit to outworking penalty kills and tonight their power play grossly outworked our penalty kill.”

The downturn started nearly a minute after puck drop at Gila River Arena when ASU’s Tyler Busch received the first penalty of the night. Quinnipiac capitalized on the man-advantage and took the lead while ASU struggled to keep the puck out of its zone.

It was evident that the two penalties from Busch translated into lost momentum as the Sun Devils managed to get only three shots during the first 20 minutes of play.

“It just broke us down and put us in a hole we couldn’t quite get out of,” Powers said.

It was penalties that hurt ASU again as the team’s penalty kill completely crumbled and gave way to two of Quinnipiac’s four goals in the second period. Although the middle frame featured two goals from ASU, the Bobcats continued their offensive stride and put the Sun Devils down by three.

ASU freshman Dominic Garcia scored his first collegiate goal late in the second, but he said the celebration was short-lived as the Bobcats retaliated seconds later.

“I think the first two periods were flat, you could tell there just wasn’t a lot of energy coming from our side of the ice,” he said.

The tables turned in the third period when the Sun Devils buckled down on their discipline and tried to overcome the deficit. ASU had three opportunities to score on the power play, but only found the back the of the net once.

The Sun Devil defense was revitalized during the third and held the Bobcats to just two shots on goal after they outshot ASU 35-14 in the prior periods.

For Powers, the effort during the final minutes was the positive takeaway from a frustrating loss.

“We came out and we were really physical right away and that’s how we have to play,” Powers said. “We have to loosen teams up with being physical the right way and we didn’t do that in the first two periods.”

The Sun Devils return to Gila River Arena next Friday for game one against Boston University, in which their physicality will play a key role against the No. 23 offense in the nation. Game two of the series will be at Oceanside Ice Arena on Saturday.

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