Things are easy when you are beating up teams left and right. It's when you get knocked down that you find out if a talented team can be a truly great team.
Arizona State, the ACHA's No. 1 ranked team, came back from their holiday break with a thud last night. In the opening game of the Great Northwest Showcase, the Sun Devils were trounced by the University of British Columbia 8-2. That was the team's worst loss of the season, and immediately drew similarities to ASU's other ugly loss this year, an 8-3 defeat to Penn State.
However, like that previous setback, the Sun Devils displayed that they are not just a very talented ACHA team. They have the heart and mental toughness needed to make a serious run at a national championship.
On Saturday night, they faced off against another top notch Canadian opponent in Simon Fraser University. Like they did in game two against Penn State, the Sun Devils came out with a resilient and inspiring effort, notching a 5-3 win that ended a two-game losing streak.
ASU struck first, as Ryan Clark netted his third goal of the year off of an assist by Danny McAuliffe. This was part of a solid period of hockey on both ends, with ASU outshooting SFU 16-7 and Sun Devil goalie Joe D'Elia responded well after a rough night against UBC.
After each goalie made some outstanding saves to begin the second period, ASU appeared to get on the board again from a goal by Dan Styrna, but that was soon waved off by the referees, who claimed the net had been moved off it's moorings. Styrna would later get one that the refs couldn't take away, doubling the ASU lead...briefly. Simon Fraser soon got one past D'Elia to make the score 2-1 at the end of the second period.
The action opened up in the final twenty minutes. Clark struck again to increase the ASU edge to 3-1, and McAuliffe netted his 12th goal of the season to make it a commanding 4-1 margin.
However, ASU's continued struggle with penalties, this time a minor on Brian Parson, allowed SFU to take to the power play, where they scored to make it a 4-2 game. Bolstered by some nice saves by D'Elia, ASU pressed the attack and Stephen Collins scored a great goal off a skillful feed from Brian McGinty. That would prove to be more than enough to hold off a late SFU goal.
The win moves ASU to 21-3 on the year, and they will return home for a series on January 3rd and 4th to face Minot State and Williston State.