(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
“It will be emotional, it will be charged,” predicted ASU coach Greg Powers earlier in the week.
The last home series of the season at Oceanside Arena against the No. 14 UA Wildcats was just that — emotional and charged — as the Sun Devils split the matchup 1-1 with their rivals.
Although game two ended 1-2 and snapped a 37 game win-streak against UA, (29-2-0) ASU had more to reflect on besides the loss.
All eight senior Sun Devils dressed out in the maroon and gold and took the ice for the last time at home on “Senior Night” in front of a sold out crowd Saturday evening. Coach Powers gave a speech for each of them and they were presented with a plaque and a bouquet of flowers to give to their mothers.
It’s a class that coach Powers feels connected to.
“This is a special class. Five of them have been through four years of me — they’re all I know. All of my wins are their wins. They’re the last group of kids I can say that about.”
Captain Colin Hekle, assistant captain Danny McAuliffe, forwards Troy Scott, David Jantzie and defenseman Brett Prechel have been with Powers at every step of his four-year journey.
Collectively, the group has a 120-21-8 record as Sun Devils. Captain Canada has tallied 174 points in his 134 games played while Captain America, Danny McAuliffe, racked up 149 points in his four years as a Sun Devil.
Forwards Kale Dolinksi and Brian McGinty and goaltender Joe D’Elia transferred to ASU in their second and third years and have played valuable roles in ASU’s success.
Dolinski, who came to the desert his sophomore year as the ACHA “Rookie of the Year” at Minot State, has a total of 166 points in his ASU career and still sits atop the league in points this season (61).
“These guys mean a lot to me,” Powers said.
Each of the 5 goals scored on Friday’s victory came at the hands of seniors. Both Hekle and Dolinski made marks on the stats sheet, but Scott was the hero of the night, scoring his first hat trick.
On Saturday, Jantzie also looked to help lift the team to it’s 38th win over the Wildcats, pulling the trigger on a shorthanded goal with 2:14 to go in the first period.
“I actually came into this weekend thinking about my first couple of games against these guys,” Jantzie said. “They’re a lot of fun and they definitely introduced me to the league and what to expect every night.”
But in the end, good defense and good goaltending by senior Steven Sisler gave UA the ‘W’ and wrapped up the teams’ frustration.
“I’d take snapping the streak in return for winning nationals any day,” Hekle said. “It’s kind of sentimental having this be your last game. You’d like to have it as a win, and it being a loss to UA makes it hurt even more than that.”
With the goal of winning a national championship still intact, ASU will face the Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder and then close out the 2013-2014 season 110 miles down interstate 10 in Tucson for a rematch against the Wildcats.
“I bet if you asked the other guys, 90 percent of the time, they’d say the best part is just being around the boys and getting to hang out with your friends,” Jantzie said. “Playing hockey is one thing — it’s obviously a lot of fun and hard work — but at the end of the day, you’re with your friends everywhere you go. That’s probably be the biggest thing I’ll miss.”