Arizona State men’s hockey has to fight for respect.
The NCAA’s newest program only ascended from the club ranks last year, and got off to a rough start with an 5-22-2 campaign. With a young roster comprised with a disproportionate amount of transfers and Canadian players, the Sun Devils struggle mightily defensively—they rank second-to-last in the NCAA by allowing 5.1 goals per game. Therefore, they must win by playing tougher than everyone else, praying opposing teams get unlucky in the offensive zone, and escaping with a goal or two.
The only problem? When they get tough, they get a little too tough. Arizona State averages 25.22 penalty minutes per game, most in the country by a five-minute margin. Opposing players don’t like it when they get tripped or slashed. When that happens, they take revenge—especially when the opposing goaltender does it.
So when ASU’s Joey Daccord interfered with Boston College’s Colin White behind the net, giving the Eagles a power play a mere 1:20 into the game, the Ottawa Senators prospect took revenge.
Matthew Gaudreau began a play at the top of the circles. He dished the puck behind the net to Ryan Fitzgerald, who found White streaking in at the bottom of the left circle. White launched it bar-down past Daccord’s right shoulder, and the onslaught began.
White’s blast was the first of 41 shots that the Eagles took on Daccord in a 3-1 victory against Arizona State on Sunday afternoon. With the victory, BC extended its unbeaten streak to 10 games, and is the first team in the country with 10 wins.
“Offensive zone, we generated tremendous pressure and quality chances,” said head coach Jerry York, who returned to the bench after missing the last six games because of an eye surgery.
Despite dominating Arizona State (2-9) in the first period with a 15-5 shots on goal advantage, 15-5, the Eagles (10-2-1, 5-0-1 Hockey East) couldn’t escape the frame perfectly. The offense had several turnovers that were turned away at the last second by Ryan Edquist and the defense. One in particular came from Graham McPhee, who had to dive to stop a breakaway by Steenn Pasichnuk after he stole the puck from him.
BC’s mistakes came back to finally kill the team with three minutes to go in the frame. Nicholas Gushue flipped the puck over the heads of Michael Kim and Scott Savage, who sold out too far up by the blue line. That pass gave Jordan Masters nothing but clear ice in front of Edquist. The sophomore went top shelf, tying the game.
Yet those penalty problems came back to haunt the Sun Devils in the second. A long stretch of man advantages, including 33 seconds of a 5-on-3, gave BC fresh legs against a tired Arizona State defense. As the clock expired on the power play, Kim launched a pass at the boards beyond Daccord. The puck took an odd bounce away from Daccord, right onto David Cotton’s stick. Defenseman Jakob Stridsberg didn’t react quickly enough, and Cotton took advantage to go low into the net.
Still the Eagles came away in the period needing something more. The team outshot Arizona State 17-6 in the second frame, yet still had only two goals. Despite the good pressure, team captain Chris Calnan noticed this frustration, and mentioned it as something the team needed to work on.
“A big piece to that is getting into that high heart-rate zone, you want to make the other team’s heart-rate go up,” Calnan said. ”It’s nice to have 40 or 50 shots on net, but at the end of the day, it’s about getting goals.”
So Calnan decided to do something about it himself.
A largely flat third period nearly allowed the Sun Devils to get back into the game. Most notably, Cole Murphy broke away from the BC defense before Edquist pushed away the puck at the last second. York considered that the play of the game, while comparing the Sun Devils’ fight and transition to college hockey to Penn State’s ascension to the sport in 2012-13.
“They put us in a situation where Ryan Edquist had to make a big save to save the game,” York said. “Big credit to their program and I think they’re going to be a major player in college hockey circles over the next couple of years.”
But with three minutes to go, Connor Moore thread the needle between the circles and launched a shot at Daccord. The ASU goaltender couldn’t reel in the rebound, and Calnan ate up the rest for some much needed insurance.
The BC victory extends the nation’s longest winning streak, one which has helped the Eagles open a five-point advantage in the standings over second-place UMass Lowell. This streak has come, however, despite only playing two ranked teams—No. 3 Denver and No. 10 Providence, both wins. That soft stretch won’t continue, either. The Eagles have five more ranked opponents—Minnesota, Harvard, North Dakota, Notre Dame, and Quinnipiac, plus two games against perennial rival Northeastern—before the calendar turns to 2017.
But for now, the Eagles are winning the games they need to win to keep that cushion. And Arizona State, a team searching for a conference while playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules, will keep on looking for an identity and respect in the highest ranks of college hockey.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor