(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
After another undefeated three-game weekend at home, the Arizona State hockey team takes their 19-0-0 record into a well-deserved two-week break.
They rightfully reclaimed the number one ranking in the ACHA after defeating Minot State on Thursday night, 2-1. Colin Hekle started the scoring with a goal in the first, and freshman Michael Cummings notched what would be the eventual game-winner in the second period. Robert Levin saved 29 of 30 Beavers shots in the first of his two wins this weekend.
On Friday, the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Williston State Tetons came to Tempe for a two-game series. The Tetons had played spoiler to a top-ranked team before – they beat Minot State last Saturday by a score of 6-5 in a shootout. In game one Friday night, the Sun Devils shut them out, 4-0. Drew Newmeyer and Kale Dolinski led the nine Sun Devils on the score sheet with two points each, and a fight-filled third period saw the teams combine for 95 penalty minutes.
Game two on Saturday went a little differently than Arizona State had hoped. Williston State hung even with the Devils for almost all of the game, forcing overtime on a weary home team. With 48 seconds left in the extra period, Danny McAuliffe notched his second goal of the night to clinch the victory, 3-2. Levin won this game as well, stopping 34 of 36 shots and making great saves in overtime to keep his team alive.
Last weekend, Arizona State barely escaped Colorado in a Friday night matchup that saw the Sun Devils leading 3-0 after two periods. This weekend, the team came back from down 2-1 to force overtime and eventually win. Should these games be taken as signs of weakness? No. Rather, they are statements about this team’s ability to win whatever the situation.
This 19-0-0 start is the best start in the program’s history, passing the previous record of 18 straight to start the season – last year’s mark. It is no coincidence that five returning players from that squad lead the team in scoring. Here they are in order of this year’s scoring:
(courtesy of achahockey.org)
Fans that found their way to Oceanside for either of the two Williston State games may have noticed the effectiveness of the power play. There has been much to speculate about in terms of the power play’s production, especially since the Sun Devils went 0-for-3 on the power play against Minot State. Two newcomers to the power play units proved the effectiveness of the man advantage, as Ryan Ostertag and Drew Newmeyer lit the lamp on Friday. Power play regular Sean Murphy started the scoring on Saturday.
It is a good sign that the Sun Devils’ power play can be a reliable source of scoring when the team needs it. The team started the scoring of both Williston State games on the power play. Arizona State has never been able to count on a power play goal, something only a handful of college level-and-up teams have ever been able to do. While some of the hardest tests for the Sun Devils are behind them, the challenges ahead would be a lot less difficult if the power play scores one or two goals a game.
On the opposite side of that coin is the penalty kill. Head coach Greg Powers’ penalty kill was on point all weekend with the exception of a Williston State power play goal set up by an Eric Rivard slash. That being said, Arizona State accumulated 19 minor penalties in their three games this weekend. The Sun Devils cannot take more penalties and expect big wins. As a team, Arizona State should absolutely stay out of the penalty box, but Dolinski, Hekle, Chris Burkemper and the other penalty killers particularly should adhere to that warning. The three aforementioned forwards are all top seven scorers for the Sun Devils, and their presence on the penalty kill has posed challenges for opponents looking to unleash shots.
As Powers said Saturday after the team’s win, “We’ve had four three-game weekends in a row. Our guys are tired. Now, they get two weeks off and they’ve earned it.”
This article previously said Williston State beat Minot State 8-2 last Friday. Minot State beat Williston State 8-2 on Friday, Williston State won 6-5 in a shootout on Saturday.