(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
The newly top ranked Arizona State Sun Devil hockey team took down the number six University of Delaware Blue Hens 7-2 at Oceanside Ice Arena Thursday night. Even with nine players suspended, ASU took the victory behind two shorthanded goals, including one of Colin Hekle’s two on the night.
With nine players suspended for the game, the ASU staff knew that it was in for a real test. “We’re pretty deep,” head coach Greg Powers said after the game. “I’m real happy with the effort.”
Only fifteen skaters, ten forwards and five defensemen, took the ice for warm-ups for the Sun Devils, but that did not slow down the ASU offense. “Powers did a great job in the offseason bringing in new guys,” senior captain Colin Hekle said. “They’re all first class players.”
Early in the first period, Arizona State looked a little overmatched by the visiting Blue Hens, losing the first four face-offs of the game and never really getting a sustained offensive possession. But, with just under three minutes gone by in the first period, the Sun Devils took an advantage. Colin Hekle intercepted a pass in the offensive zone and snapped a wrister past Delaware goaltender Noble Tucker for an early 1-0 advantage.
Less than one minute later, the Sun Devils were celebrating again. Freshman Sean Murphy took a feed from Kale Dolinski and roofed it over the outstretched limbs of Tucker to put Arizona State up 2-0 just under four minutes into the game.
The Blue Hens, slightly discouraged and slamming sticks on their bench, did not go away that quickly. About one minute later, defenseman Alex Temby mishandled a pass at the offensive blue line. The puck was pounced on by Blue Hen forward Mark Zeszut, who played pass with fellow senior Christopher Volonnino before Zeszut slid a shot past Joe D’Elia to cut the ASU lead in half.
Momentum quickly swung back toward the Devils. Just fifty seconds after Delaware’s goal, a bit of controversy hit the ice as Marcello DeAngelis was sent to the box for five minutes after a cross check that left Chris Burkemper sprawled on the ice – much to the chagrin of the Blue Hens’ bench. The bench mob became even more vocal when Burkemper, who needed help up after his hit, returned to the ice too quickly for their liking.
During the major penalty, Volonnino was called for a minor of his own, putting the Devils up five on three for 2:05 – too much time for an offense of ASU’s caliber. Less than a minute later, the lead was two once again after Brett Prechel saucered a pass over to Alex Temby who unleashed a slapshot, which appeared to be tipped, over the right shoulder of Tucker.
The Sun Devils were right back at it again in the second period. Just over a minute into the frame, Tommy Cooney flipped the puck into twine for a three goal lead and the Devils were on their way.
The dislike between the Blue Hens and Sun Devils escalated in the second stanza, as more penalties became called and the two sides were engaged in more and more extracurricular activities away from the play and after the whistle. After nearly every whistle, players from each side were engaging in yelling matches and a bit of shoving, some resulting in penalties.
In the final two minutes of the second, the ASU offense picked up again, scoring twice on Delaware to seize complete control of the contest. First, with 1:53 remaining, Zack Holstrom unleashed a perfect cross-goal feed to Patrick Yudez, who just needed to tap the puck for an easy fifth goal. Then, while shorthanded, Colin Hekle served Kale Dolinski, which the senior turned into the sixth of the night for Arizona State to put the game on ice.
The offense would not stop there. A man down, Colin Hekle scored his second goal of the night at 16:06 of the third period, taking Jarrod Levos’ third assist of the night from behind the net. The goal was the Sun Devils’ second of the night when they were a man down.
Delaware added a second goal, this one by Volonnino with D’Elia down and out, to cut the differential to five, but it came too little too late for the Blue Hens.
In the third period, seven men were sent to the penalty box, including coincidental minor penalties on Delaware’s Wes Bonnell and ASU’s Brett Prechel. The talking increased as did the contact after and away from the play.
Senior goaltender Joe D’Elia saved 19 of the 21 shots he faced in the victory, while Delaware netminders Noble Tucker and Patrick Rochefort allowed 7 goals on 39 shots in the loss.
Powers said after the game that some of the suspended players would be back on the ice for Friday’s game against Delaware. “Some will be back,” Powers said. “They made a very honest mistake, but we don’t put up with that here.”
The teams will face off on Friday night at 7:30 PM at Oceanside Ice Arena, then the Sun Devils will take on Northern Arizona on Saturday to end the weekend.
You can reach Matthew Tonis on Twitter @Tonis_The_Tiger or via email at email@example.com