It's great to make history, but after doing so, then what?
Last weekend, Arizona State defeated Penn State on the road, marking the first time in program history that the team had scored a win over a NCAA Division I opponent. However, the Sun Devils had little time to enjoy the win, as this Friday, they began a key series against No. 3 Robert Morris-Illinois.
Any doubts as to where the minds of the Sun Devils players were at was quickly cast aside, as they put together an impressive, hard-hitting effort in scoring a victory on Friday night, their 19th straight of the year against ACHA competition.
The intensity of the game was present from the start.
Robert Morris showed no rust after their long layoff, having not played since November 17th. They were able to generate a few solid scoring opportunities in the first period with their speed, but ASU's defense was equal to the task. Over the first few minutes of the game, both teams felt each other out and delivered some big hits. Shortly after RMU killed Mill Nunes' cross checking penalty, they were able to open the scoring. ASU goalie Joe D'Elia's recent struggles with rebounds returned, as Tony Domico knocked in the puck off a shot by Mason Riley at the 12:23 mark.
That goal began a wild and action-packed latter half of the period, punctuated by more rebound goals.
ASU evened the score a few minutes later, as Dan Styrna's rebound off Robert Morris goalie Andy DiCristofaro was put in by Stephen Collins. Just over two minutes later, the Sun Devils struck again. Troy Scott fired a shot off of DiCrisofaro that was knocked to the right of the goal, and ASU's Kory Chisholm made a sensational diving effort to knock in the rolling puck to take a 2-1 lead.
Gehrett Sargis beat D'Elia five hole soon after to tie up the game, but with just 1:22 left, the Sun Devils regained the lead and momentum off of a wicked backhand by Ryan Clark, on a play beautifully led by Collins' top-notch stickhandling.
In the second period, ASU continued to build on that momentum by putting several high-percentage shots on goal , but were repeatedly turned away by DiCristofaro. Yet for all his amazing saves, DiCristofaro soon had his night end early after he allowed a weak goal off the stick of Kale Dolinski, that snuck just inside the post. Following that goal, RMU head coach Tom Adrahtas pulled DiCristofaro in favor of Anthony Petrak, who then fell under heavy fire but held firm.
After a few minutes of the shooting gallery treatment, and Robert Morris' defense then tightened up, resulting in another lengthy stalemate. That was broken when D'Elia attempted to play a loose puck in from of his net, but lost control, allowing Sargis to score his second of the night after stripping D'Elia. Undaunted, the Devils picked up their goalie not a minute later, as Collins found his way through harsh traffic and into the slot, where he unleashed a nasty wristshot that beat Petrak over his glove.
The tension that had been brewing all game long in the form of hard (and late) hits, shoves and elbows finally manifested itself in the middle of the third period.
Collins completed his hat trick off assists from Styrna and Hekle, but following the goal took a very late and very cheap shot and was knocked to the ice. The ensuing scrum resulted in several punches from both sides. After the ice chips had settled, three roughing penalties were handed out, two to RMU, but ASU failed to convert on the man advantage.
Throughout the remainder of the game, the bad blood continued to boil, as penalty after penalty was called on each team, including a game misconduct on RMU's Andrew Montague. At one point, EIGHT players were in the box at the same time, four on each team, resulting in a stretch of 3-on-3 hockey.
In the midst of the anarchy, ASU did manage to add to their lead, as Danny McAuliffe scored from the blue line with a hard slapshot with just 4:46 left, and RMU got a meaningless goal with 51 seconds left from Chris Pontello to secure the final score of 7-4.
D'Elia improves to 14-1-0 on the year while making 23 saves, while DiCristofaro drops to 10-2-1.
These two teams will battle once again on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Be sure to come out and witness what should be a very interesting game.
1st, 12:23: RMU - Domico (6), assisted by Riley, Hamilton
1st, 8:08: ASU - Collins (18), assisted by Styrna
1st, 5:53: ASU - Chisholm (2), assisted by Scott, Charrios
1st, 3:05: RMU - Sargis (14), assisted by Montague
1st, 1:22: ASU - Clark (2), assisted by Collins, Hekle
2nd, 12:20: ASU - Dolinski (22), assisted by Collins, Blomgren
2nd, 5:48: RMU - Sargis (15), assisted by Popov, Martorano
2nd, 5:03: ASU - Collins (19), assisted by Styrna, Hekle
3rd, 12:27: ASU - Collins (20), assisted Styrna, Hekle
3rd, 4:46: ASU - McAuliffe (10), assisted by Parson
3rd, 0:51: RMU - Pontello (4), assisted by Martorano
Shots on Goal
ASU - 50
RMU - 27