Nine different Arizona State hockey players have reached the 20-point plateau this season, but Saturday's game lacked the offensive fireworks the Sun Devils have displayed throughout this season.
Despite scoring just one goal through the first two periods against Rhode Island, the Sun Devil hockey team continued its recent resurgence with a 3-0 win over the Rhode Island Rams.
The Sun Devils had plenty of chances to take command of Saturday night's game, and their first opportunity came just 51 seconds into the first period when Arizona State went on the power play.
With a power play scheme that included four forwards and just one defenseman, the Sun Devils had trouble breaking through and failed to capitalize.
Fortunately for Coach Greg Powers, his team did not relent and treated the rest of the first period as if they were on the power play the entire time.
"We have so much talent on the front end that the goals are going to come. Guys just have to stick with it," Powers said.
With just under 13 minutes left in the first period, Sun Devil captain Colin Hekle broke down the ice with the puck still in his defensive zone. The move demonstrated the junior's superior anticipation as Dan Styrna scooped up the puck and sent a lead pass into the attack zone. Styrna's pass hit Hekle in stride and the forward buried it in the net with a swift top shelf wrister.
The Sun Devils finished the first period with 16 shots on goal, while goalie Joe D'Elia faced just five shots from the Rams.
Arizona State continued to dominate play in the second period, as the Sun Devil offense used three power play chances to rack up a grand total of 18 shots in the period. But instead of finding the back of the net, the Arizona State offense found the glove of Rhode Island goalie Andrew Sherman.
The sophomore netminder sat the first game of the two game series, but more than made up for his absence with a stellar outing on Saturday night. Sherman was credited with 49 saves, including a number of phenomenal stops on the penalty kill.
By the end of the second period, the Sun Devils found themselves in complete control of the game yet still only led 1-0 on the strength of Hekle's breakaway.
In the third period, each team turned up the level of physicality and the extracurricular efforts after the whistle led to at least two game misconducts for each team.
"It was chippy, it was lippy, it was mouthy, it is what it is. We'll take it. A score of 7-0 over two games against a top 20 team, so we're happy," Coach Powers said.
With the offense in desperate need of a spark, Kory Chisholm provided the lift with a one-timer in traffic just outside the crease. Then, the Sun Devils added a third goal to their tally when Brian Parson lit the lamp with 4:40 remaining in the game. Parson's goal came on a rebound effort after a Dan Styrna slapshot ricocheted off the crossbar.
Though Chisholm and Parson's goals looked nice on the stat sheet, Hekle's first period goal was all the Sun Devils needed to take down the Rams for the second night in a row.
The 3-0 victory marked the second consecutive shutout for Arizona State, which hasn't accomplished the feat since doing so against Northern Arizona in 2011. More importantly, Joe D'Elia looks to have regained his confidence in the net after surrendering six goals against Oklahoma last weekend.
The weekend sweep also gives the Sun Devils momentum heading into next weekend's series against the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona State has dominated the Cactus Cup series of late as the Sun Devils hold a 28-game winning streak, but the Wildcats always seem to give the maroon and gold everything it can handle.
Coach Powers knows the rivalry speaks for itself, but he said his team was already looking forward to the opportunity against Arizona.
"If the tournament started today, they would be the last team in. These are the biggest games for Arizona in probably six or seven years and that adds a whole other dimension to the series this weekend. It's going to be fun," Powers said.