ASU goalie Joe D'Elia poke checks a Liberty shootout attempt - (Photo: Hekle Photo Images)
It wasn't the most important game, but for sheer edge-of-your-seat excitement, this game was No. 1
The red light goes on!
Arizona State's Danny McAuliffe had just scored his 14th goal of the season to give the Sun Devils a comfortable 3-0 lead with 8:30 left to go in the second period. Even though the top ranked Sun Devils were hosting the dangerous Liberty Flames, ACHA's No. 8 team, this mid-January game seemed all but over.
That feeling was oh so short lived.
Just 63 seconds later, Liberty was able to knock in a rebound passed ASU goalie Joe D'Elia. Two minutes after that, a sloppy defensive error by the Sun Devils resulted in their once commanding lead narrowed to just one heading into the final period.
The third period featured a flurry of exciting action on both sides, but Liberty was able to tie the game mid-way through the period. Neither team was able to score in regulation, sending this game into overtime.
ASU took immediate control of the extra period, scoring the game-winner just one minute in...but even with the puck clearly passed the line, the referee waved off the goal as a furious debate ensued. That was the best chance during overtime, and this battle between top 10 powers went into the shootout.
But this would prove to be anything but your standard, three-rounds-and-done shootout. This would be a grueling, mentally draining marathon.
D'Elia and Flames goalie Blair Bennett each turned aside the initial three shots. They remained perfect through a fourth round.
Then through a fifth, thanks to a fortunate crossbar clang off the stick of Liberty's Andrew McCombe.
Still unblemished though the sixth.
And for good measure, their iron wills and laser-like focus got them through a seventh round.
This game was not recommended for those with heart conditions.
D'Elia turned aside Steven Bellew to open the eighth round, as Sun Devil defenseman Darcy Charrois skated to center ice. Charrois had struggled throughout the game defensively, but had a huge chance at redemption staring back at him from across the ice.
Charrois skated in, deked once and fired a wrister that beat Bennett five-hole and won this instant classic for the Sun Devils.
OK, you may now resume breathing.