Last weekend, the Arizona State Sun Devils live on the edge, counting on clutch goals late in games to win three straight contests in either overtime or the shootout.
What a difference a week makes.
Last night, ASU surrendered three unanswered goals in a 6-3 loss to Oklahoma, and a similar collapse awaited the team on Friday.
In a game defined by penalties, hard hits and harsh words, the Sun Devils gave up three goals over the final six minutes to drop a 4-2 decision to No. 17 Central Oklahoma.
The physical nature of the game was apparent from the opening faceoff. Nearly every shift throughout the first period was filled with aggressive hits and some choice words, begun with a thundering hit by ASU's Danny McAuliffe along the boards. A few roughing penalties were handing out as a result, but neither team could convert on a power play, nor a two-minute four-on-four session.
Both starting goalies came up with huge saves to ensure a scoreless first period. ASU's Corey Frank showed of great lateral movement and rebound control, while UCO's Tory Caldwell made a pair of great saves on Sun Devil one-timers.
The intensity continued to rise through a rough and tumble second period.
ASU began the full period in total control, with an aggressive forecheck keeping the puck in the UCO zone for much of the first 10 minutes. That pressure began to fatigue the Bronchos, who then committed a pair of penalties that gave ASU a brief two-man advantage. As the final seconds of the first penalty expired, ASU's Darcy Charrois one-timed a pass in the slot past Caldwell for the 1-0 lead.
The Sun Devils had a great chance just a few minutes later as they went on another power play, but failed to convert. As the time expired in the penalty, UCO's fifth skater returned just as the Bronchos gained a rush, and within a few strides, Thierry Martine slid the puck along the ice from a short angle past the outstretched pad of Frank for the tying goal.
Early in the third period, the stalemate was broken by a familiar, if unlikely, source. Leading an ASU rush, Charrois fired a wrister into Caldwell, who stopped it but gave up a large rebound. Charrois wasted no time in collected in the puck and shot it past 16:39 Charrois knocks in own rebound for the lead.
The next 10 minutes were filled with huge hit after huge hit, and the tensions noticeably rose. During once such post-whistle scrum, two Sun Devils—Ryan Clark and Kory Chisholm—were sent to the box along with a Broncho, and just 37 seconds into the ensuing power play, UCO leading scorer Riley Spraggs rifled a shot past Frank for the tying score.
With some life back, UCO and Spraggs took advantage. Spraggs gained possession at the blue line, made two impressive dekes past the Sun Devil defense and tossed it top shelf past Frank for the shocking 3-2 lead. To make matters worse, Brian McGinty let his tempers get the best of him, and earned a pair of minor penalties. Then, another scrum at the 1:57 mark resulted in three more players in the box.
ASU called a timeout, and pulled Frank for the extra attacker. Despite a few good chances, ASU failed to solve Caldwell, and a late clearing attempt trickled into the empty Sun Devil net with just 0.6 seconds left in a fitting capper to the night's events.
Frank suffers his first loss of the year, falling to 3-1, while Caldwell improves to 7-10.
The two teams will conclude the series tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe. Given the result tonight and the apparent animosity, there figures to be a lot of bruises coming up.
2nd - ASU, 6:19: Charrois (3), assists Parson and Collins - Power Play
2nd - UCO, 3:19 : Martine (3), assist Khalaf
3rd - ASU, 16:39: Charrois (4), assist Scott
3rd - UCO, 6:10: Spraggs (10), assist Allen - Power Play
3rd - UCO, 3:59: Spraggs (11), unassisted
3rd - UCO, 0:01: Empty Net