The Arizona State hockey team reached new heights in the 2012-2013 season, but the Sun Devils failed to achieve their ultimate goal.
On Tuesday night, the Sun Devils' unforgettable season came to an abrupt end in the ACHA tournament semifinals as they fell by a final score of 6-4 to the No. 9 Lindenwood Lions.
The No. 2 Arizona State Sun Devils entered Tuesday as the highest remaining seed in the tournament, but they struggled to stop a potent Lions' offense that caught fire at the right time.
Sun Devil forward Kyle Bowen opened the semifinal matchup with a goal in the first three minutes of play to give Arizona State a 1-0 lead.
Through the first two games of the tournament, the Sun Devils looked positively unstoppable and appeared to be returning to championship-caliber level they displayed earlier on in the season.
However, after Bowen's opening salvo, an onslaught of Lions' goals helped Lindenwood take a commanding lead.
Senior Grant Gorczyca scored with 11:37 remaining in the first period to tie the game, and teammates Jeremy Meletti, Steve Brancheau and Nick Carey added first period goals to give Lindenwood a 4-1 advantage.
Despite putting just 11 shots on net in the first period, the Lions stunned Arizona State goalie Joe D'Elia with a number of quick-hitting attempts.
After the first intermission, the Sun Devils stormed back onto the ice determined to regain their composure.
Junior forward Kale Dolinski nailed a wrist-shot past Lions' goalie Linus Ahgren with 10:21 left in the second, and he followed that up with another goal just 34 seconds later.
With 4:30 remaining in the period, junior forward Dave Jantzie found freshman Stephen Collins who netted a game-tying goal that completed an incredible comeback.
Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, the magical second period run did not translate to third period success.
Thirty-two seconds into the third period, Gorsyca beat D'Elia for the second time to help the Lions take the lead yet again.
The Sun Devils had a few more quality chances to tie the game, but Lions' freshman Stephen Bopp put the nail in the coffin with a breakaway goal with just over 12 minutes remaining in the final period.
Arizona State never recovered from the 6-4 deficit and saw its title hopes slip away at the hands of a battle-tested Lindenwood squad.
The Lions have reached the semifinals of the ACHA tournament in five of the past six seasons and despite having a relatively down regular season for a powerhouse, they found themselves in a familiar place.
In contrast, Tuesday night's contest marked the first time the Sun Devils have ever reached the semifinals.
Coach Greg Powers has helped the Sun Devil hockey program make impressive strides over the last few seasons, and this year was another stepping stone in setting the foundation for a juggernaut.
Though the coaches and players truly believe they have the top team in the country, the Sun Devils will have to wait another season to make their foray into the championship game.
Arizona State started the season 19-0 and ascended to the top spot in the ACHA rankings for the first time in program history, but the Sun Devils did not skate off the ice as victors in their final game.
Tuesday's loss revealed the heart and fight in each and every Arizona State player, and the Sun Devils' season will surely have the ACHA on notice heading into next year.