(Hekle Photo Images)
An even and hard fought game fell apart late for the Sun Devils in their battle against the fifth-ranked Sooners
Over the second half of the season, top-ranked Arizona State has had struggles early in games before coming through late to secure victory.
That script was flipped on Thursday night, as a game that was a tightly-contested 3-3 as the third period came undone due to some lapses in the defensive zone and in the crease.
ASU opened the game by controlling the possession with aggressive offensive charges, but soon Oklahoma wrested control away, in no small part due to a pair of sloppy Sun Devil plays.
An attempted clearing pass in the ASU defensive zone hit Sooner forward Brandon Dennis, who was directly in front of ASU goalie Joe D'Elia. Dennis quickly tapped in the puck for a 1-0 lead. Not two minutes later, another ASU turnover in their zone was controlled by Anthony Cullen, who flicked up a backhander over D'Elia's glove to double the Sooner lead.
Finally, the Sun Devils woke up.
During a wild scrum in front of the net, Colin Hekle found the puck and put it past Sooner goalie Colin Fernandes with just 49 seconds left. With some semblance of momentum, the Sun Devils mounted one last charge, and converted. A wicked wrister from Brian McGinty beat Fernandes up top and tied the game with just 7.6 seconds left.
A pair of power play goals marked all the scoring in the second period.
Oklahoma regained the lead off of Ryan Stouffer's first career goal, a nice wristshot that beat D'Elia gloveside again. Five minutes later, the Sun Devil power play sprung to life to break out of a prolonged special teams slump. With the clock running down om the man advantage, Stephen Collins, using his unmatched stickhandling, deked his way from the corner to the slot and then the far side of the crease to slide his shot in for the equalizer, and some much needed momentum as the teams went to the final period.
However, it all fell apart for the Sun Devils in the third period.
It started at the 14:49 mark, when Oklahoma's Justin Giles threw up a shot from a bad angle that somehow found it's way into the upper corners of the net. An ASU defensive breakdown resulted in a 2-on-1 chance for the Sooners. Mico Solorzano fed a streaking Nicholas Power for the goal. The dagger came two minutes later, when Mason Miller scored from almost a zero angle on a shot that D'Elia didn't see.
With just under three minutes left, frustrations and tempers flared, as a scuffle ensued after a stoppage, that sent multiple players on each team to the box, but after a lengthy period of order restoring, the final minutes ticked off without incident.
D'Elia's rough night drops him to 18-4 on the year, while Fernandes improves to 12-8. The Sun Devils outshot Oklahoma 35-34.
ASU will need to regroup quickly, as they begin a two-game series against No. 17 Central Oklahoma on Friday night. Game 1 of this series begins at 8 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
1st - OU, 9:40: Dennis (9) unassisted
1st - OU, 7:50: Cullen (4) unassisted
1st - ASU, 0:49: Hekle (20) assist Scott
1st - ASU, 0:07: McGinty (14), assist Hekle
2nd - OU, 8:08: Stouffer (1), assists Bolden, Hudson - Power Play
2nd - ASU, 3:03: Collins (23), assist McAuliffe - Power Play
3rd - OU, 14:49: Giles (3) unassisted
3rd - OU, 8:36: Power (2), assist Solorzano
3rd - OU, 6:34: Miller (3) unassisted