Arizona State’s quest for their first championship in school history came to an end Tuesday night as they fell to the ninth-ranked Lindenwood University Lions 6-4 in the semifinals.
With the win, Lindenwood has now advanced to their fifth championship game in the last six years. They will face off against third-ranked Minot State on Wednesday night.
For the Sun Devils, it was their most successful season in team history. During the season, the team made it to the semifinals for the first time, defeated an NCAA Division I opponent, and was ranked No. 1 for the first time as well.
Lindenwood once again proved, however, that they are more than capable of taking down higher ranked teams. On their way to the finals, the Lions have beaten No. 8 Davenport, No. 1 Adrian College, and now No. 2 Arizona State.
Lindenwood was led by forward Grant Gorczyca who scored two goals by capitalizing on Arizona State’s defensive miscues. Goaltender Linus Ahgren was also instrumental in the win as he saved 42 out of 46 shots, and had huge momentum killing saves in the second period.
The Sun Devils got out on top in the first three minutes of the game as center Kyle Bowen found the back of the net. However, the lead did not last long as the Lindenwood Lions were able erupt for four goals in the final 11 minutes of the period. Gorczyca kicked things off with a five-hole goal at 11:37 minutes.
The Lions then scored two goals in a span of 19 seconds. Forward Jeremy Meletti tipped in the puck past Arizona State goaltender Joe D’Elia from a Brennan Devers shot. Forward Steve Brancheau then scored on a slap shot from the far side to give the Lions a 3-1 lead. With 51.4 seconds left in the period, the Lions added a power play goal as defenseman Nick Carey sent one home immediately after a face off in Arizona State’s defensive zone.
The Sun Devils did not let the 4-1 deficit get to their heads as they responded with a big second period. Ten minutes into the period, forward Kale Dolinski scored back-to-back goals in 34 seconds to make it a one goal game. Sun Devil forward Stephen Collins then took advantage of a Lindenwood defensive miscue and sent it past Ahgren with four minutes left in the period.
However, the Sun Devils momentum was short-lived, as Gorczyca five-holed D’Elia 32 seconds into the third period. Arizona State’s hopes of orchestrating the come-back were dashed after forward Stephen Bopp hit the dagger with 12 minutes left in the game. The Sun Devils were never able to recover from that, and subsequently, saw their season come to an end.