(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
The Arizona State hockey team came out of the gates ready to play and start their quest for another deep postseason run, easily taking care of their first series.
San Diego State left Tempe as quickly as they could after being dispatched by the Devils, 12-1 and 11-1.
In Friday night’s game, the Sun Devils showed no mercy from the get-go. Freshman standout Sean Murphy did not disappoint, netting two goals and adding an assist in his college hockey debut.
Murphy’s line, featuring captain Colin Hekle and Faiz Khan, showed all of its promise and looks to be the top offensive production line for Arizona State head coach Greg Powers. The line appeared often on the power play and included Murphy at the point.
“I actually have [played defense on the power play] the past couple years in juniors, so I was comfortable with it,” Murphy said after Friday’s tilt.
Murphy’s line did not start the game, however: Powers opted for Kale Dolinski, Liam Norris and Danny McAuliffe instead, the trio with the most experience.
That same line tallied 127 points last season and started hot on Friday, as each player contributed one goal and two assists for a grand total of nine points, making them the highest scoring line from Friday.
Dolinksi, last year’s top scorer, notched the first goal of the season just over a minute into the game off of a beautiful pass from defenseman Jarrod Levos. Needless to say, the top two lines were on the same page as they were last season (and improved, after seeing what Murphy brought to the table), and their stability and consistency should stay the same moving forward.
The focus of Friday’s game wasn’t on the offense, however.
In fact, it was on senior goaltender Joe D’Elia. With two freshmen breathing down his back for the starting spot, D’Elia stopped 17 of the 18 pucks the Aztecs fired his way en route to a stellar 60-minute performance.
Concerns arose in the third when an Aztec accidentally ran into D’Elia from behind, followed by a D’Elia fall to the ice and an apparent left knee injury. He was attended to on the ice and stayed in the game.
Powers later stated that D’Elia was “fine,” and that he “wasn’t worried about it.” That’s great news, considering the winner of the goalie competition will likely not be decided until after the first series against Arizona in early October.
Saturday night saw Powers get aggressive with his roster as he changed out five of the six players on his top two lines: Hekle, Khan, McAuliffe, Norris and Dolinski received rest while Kory Chisholm, Dave Jantzie, Troy Scott, Michael Cummings and Tommy Cooney got to see the ice for the first time this season. Chisholm and Scott flanked Jantzie on the third line, while Cummings and Cooney joined Murphy as the fourth line.
The Aztecs held their tryouts for backup goaltender in game two, but the result was the same for the Sun Devils. Brian McGinty, who went 1-1-2 on Friday, led the way in game two with a goal and three assists.
Powers praised McGinty’s leadership Saturday, and McGinty admitted that his best piece of advice was showing no mercy.
“We tried to keep the guys focused and make sure we didn’t take this team lightly tonight,” McGinty said after the game.
With Dolinski’s line out for Saturday’s game, it was Michael Cummings who sparked the scoring for the Sun Devils. Cummings scored the first goal just over three minutes into the game and added a second three and a half minutes later.
The 6’2” left winger said he noticed the differences between junior hockey and college hockey right away.
“You’re playing against men now. It’s another step up, so you have to get used to the more physical, stronger guys.”
D’Elia also got the night off Saturday, as Powers tapped Robert Levin for the start. With the score at 7-1 halfway through the second period, Powers swapped Levin for Lucas Felbel in hopes to see if one could make their case atop the other on the depth chart.
“[Robert and I] discussed it and he knew it was a possibility,” Powers explained after the game. “If he had a shutout going, I wouldn’t have pulled him.”
No decision has been made yet for that spot on the depth chart, and it is unknown if either freshman will see time next Friday against Division 2 Weber State (2-0-0).
Two freshmen that stood out the most this weekend were center Zachary Holstrom and defenseman Jarrod Levos.
Holstrom recorded four assists over the weekend and consistently showed his incredible puck-carrying ability, highlighted by a spin-o-rama pass to Chris Burkemper on a 2-on-1 for ASU’s eighth goal on Friday night.
Levos tallied three assists and impressed particularly on the offensive side of the puck, seeing the ice better than the rest and creating chances that often were not available seconds before. Both players saw time on the power play, and with their ability to move the puck, those spots are theirs to lose.
Not much about this weekend was complex for the Sun Devils. They outscored San Diego State 23-2 and outshot them 124-35. They took advantage of their nine power plays and stayed out of trouble with only four penalties.
They showed their extraordinary depth on the scoresheet, as 22 of their 27 position players scored at least a point. Dynamo defenseman Alex Temby is cleared to play, and we will see what Powers decides to do to his offensive lines leading up to Friday’s game against Weber State.
As Powers tweeted last night, “Great first weekend, can’t ask for much more from our guys… #2inthebooks.”