When Arizona State is healthy, few, if any teams in the ACHA can skate with them. If their first game is any indication, the rest of the tournament field has been put on notice.
After early exits in each of the last two years of postseason play, the Sun Devils, the No. 2 seed in the ACHA National Tournament, opened their run at the program's first national championship with a dominant 8-2 win over 18th seeded Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights had defeated Navy last night to earn this second round match up, but despite a sensational performance by their goaltender Brandon DeLibero, a now fully-intact ASU lineup that welcomed back Colin Hekle and Jordan Young was simply too much for Rutgers to repel.
Both teams were sluggish out of the gate, although the Sun Devils were able to keep a significant edge in possession. Eventually, ASU's superior talent began to shine through, and they peppered DeLibero with consistent shots, but the senior netminder was equal to the early tasks.
The action began to shift thanks to Rutgers penalties midway through the period. ASU was able to get a power play chance that was converted by a terrific Stephen Collins backhander to give ASU the 1-0 lead.
The momentum for ASU continued later in the period, again aided my undisciplined play from Rutgers, when Kevin Mathers checked ASU's Troy Scott from behind. That dirty play resulted in Mather's ejection from a game misconduct and a five minute Sun Devil power play that carried over into the second period. During the opening period, ASU outshot Rutgers 27-6 in a show of total domination that would continue throughout the game.
ASU was unable to convert on the remaining power play time early in the second period, but the Sun Devils still managed to continue their domination.
Over a four minute stretch the two teams combined for four goals, three by the Sun Devils. Dan Styrna drew first blood on a terrific 2-on-1 break, as he converted a Colin Hekle pass for the goal. Just over one minute later, ASU defenseman Ryan Clark slapped home a one-timer to give ASU a three-goal edge.
Rutgers then looked to get some life when Matthew McDonald cleaned up a loose puck under a diving Joe D'Elia to get the Scarlet Knights on the board, but that momentum was short lived. After a Rutgers penalty, Kale Dolinski scored his team-high 31st goal of the year on the power play to get the three-goal edge back for ASU. Brian Parson capped the period with a seeing-eye puck from the point that somehow found its way past DeLibero for a 5-1 lead.
But Parson wasn't done. Just over two minutes into the third period, Parson unleashed a laser of a wrist shot that found the top shelf of the net, and teammate Kyle Bowen made it a 7-1 lead a few minutes later with his fifth goal of the season. The Scarlet Knights did manage to score one more time shortly thereafter, but it was merely a stat-padding effort.
For good measure, ASU made sure they had the last word, as David Jantzie (#TeamJantzie) scored the Sun Devils' eighth goal of the game to provide the final margin.
With the win, ASU will face Illinois, who knocked off defending champion Delaware earlier in the day. The battle between No. 2 seed ASU and No. 7 Illinois will begin at 12:30 p.m. MT.
1st - ASU, 9:30: Collins (26), assists Khan, Charrois Power Play
2nd - ASU, 15:44: Styrna (14), assists Hekle, Khan
2nd - ASU, 14:38: Clark (8), assists Norris, McAuliffe
2nd - RU, 13:23: McDonald (14), assists Adams, Beatrice
2nd - ASU 11:11: Dolinksi (31), assist McAuliffe, Norris Power Play
2nd - ASU, 1:37: Parson (4), assists Dolinski, Hughes
3rd - ASU, 17:54: Parson (5), assists McGinty, Jantzie
3rd - ASU, 13:34: Bowen (5), assists Chisholm, Scott
3rd - RU, 12:19: Gelesky (17), assists Ruthberg, Koslov
3rd - ASU, 3:11: Janztie (8) assists, Ritchie, McGinty