1. Chapman is much, much better than their record shows.
This wasn’t a game that ASU gave away, and it wasn’t a game that the Sun Devils just didn’t show up for. Friday’s game was as intense as regular season games get, and it was only fitting for the game to head into an overtime period to decide its victor.
No. 9 Chapman came into the rivalry match-up with a 2-2 record, and coming out with a win was all they needed to propel themselves into the rest of the season with confidence. They did more than that, though: they earned the win.
The entire Panthers’ offense, including attackmen Timmy Andrews and Tyler Ankarlo, adjusted to a stout core of defensemen for ASU. The entire game, Chapman’s offense was coordinated up top by Alex Williams and AJ Rafter, who opened up space down low with excellent ball movement and even high in the box for a deep goal from Matt Welch.
Most impressive was the ability to adjust at the half; the team’s stagnant offense and off-balanced defense pulled a complete 180 and put them into contention with a 1-0 third quarter before the game broke into a scoring match in the fourth.
Defensively, forcing two late turnovers ended up eliminating ASU’s chances to play for the win and gave Chapman all the momentum it needed to carry into overtime with the upper edge.
2.The Sun Devils are vulnerable to late turnovers.
As great as the turnovers were for Chapman, they were horrible for the Sun Devils. There were two key turnovers that ruined the chance for the team to snap the 7-7 gridlock in the fourth quarter’s final minutes.
On the offense, attackman Payson Clark interrupted the usual perimeter passing rotation with a soft floater that led to a quick jump and interception by a Panther defender.
The defender did make a great play on the ball, but the turnover was uncharacteristic for the senior team captain.
“We’ve been turning the ball over since we got to Minnesota. It’s something that we’ve been harping for a while, and we’ve got to fix that issue. We’ve got to take care of the ball,” ASU head coach Chris Malone said.
With under a minute to play, goalie Preston Andersen looked for a deep pass in the midfield for Zach Scarano, which was also intercepted by a defender. Coach Malone stood by this aggressive decision, however, accrediting it to a nice defensive play rather than a poor offensive one.
“If he misses that, maybe that’s in Scarano’s stick and we’re going for a fast break. Preston’s young, but I trust him to make the right decision,” Malone said.
“You’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to get focused.”
3. The Zack Handy Effect isn’t invincible.
In the first half, the strategy worked to perfection, with face-off specialist Zack Handy raking the ball back to midfielder Nick Hillier, who would then advance the ball and set up the offense. Unfortunately, as the game wore on, the strategy was exposed, and by the game’s final face-off, Hillier was being ambushed by a crowd of defenders once he got to the ball.
The strategy isn’t a problem, but the lack of versatility is. When playing a smart, adaptable team like Chapman (or any top-10 MCLA team, for that matter), the ability to change and keep the team on its toes is crucial.
As one of the best face-off specialists in the conference, it’s not surprising to see him getting the bulk of face-off opportunities in a big game versus an SLC rival. However, back-up Eli Miller can provide the versatility and shake things up in the circle if given the chance.