Last season it took No. 1 Arizona State 25 tries to lose a hockey game. This season it only took eight, as the Sun Devils fell 7-4 to No. 5 Central Oklahoma.
"It was a game where we got behind on the road in an uncharacteristic way, and we played like a young team," coach Greg Powers said. "We got beat. The good news is you don't win championships in October.
Central Oklahoma (10-0-0, 1-0-0 WCHL) doesn't get enough credit for being a legitimate championship contender, but Thursday's win may turn a few heads. At one point it was down 2-1 in the first period, but rallied for six of the next nine goals en route to the upset.
Trevor Yee started the scoring in the game. The Central Oklahoma forward skated in and beat sophomore goaltender Lucas Felbel, who made his second start of the season. Arizona State (8-1-0, 0-1-0 WCHL) would return the goal - sophomore Connor Schmidt connected with his fourth of the season - and they traded goals when it was 2-2.
Then Central Oklahoma took the lead for good in the second period, when Brandon Harley netted back-to-back goals, one on a backhander on a partial breakaway, another short-handed. The fourth goal was enough for Powers to pull the plug on Felbel and insert sophomore Robert Levin between the pipes.
"He just didn't have it tonight," Powers said. "My heart goes out to him because he doesn't get a lot of opportunities. But you certainly can't pin that loss on him, that was a team loss."
It didn't get much better from there by the Sun Devils. Two Arizona State players were penalized, giving the Bronchos a 5-on-3 power play, and they cashed in. It was Michael Rivera scoring his second of the game to give his team a 5-2 lead. The Sun Devils would add one more before heading to the third period.
Arizona State connected while on a 5-on-3 on its own, then Rivera putting the icing on the cake. Three Bronchos entered the attacking zone, opposed by only one Sun Devil, and it was Rivera who completed the hat trick put Central Oklahoma up 6-4.
It would add one more before time expired and knocked off the defending national champions 7-4.
"It just wasn't in the cards tonight," Powers said.
Third star: Trevor Yee, forward, Central Oklahoma.Started the scoring with a goal, and had two assists.
Second star: Brandon Harley, forward, Central Oklahoma. A partial breakaway gave his team a 3-2 lead, and also had one short-handed.
First star: Michael Rivera, forward, Central Oklahoma. A hat trick is typically the key to the first star, and it included the game-winning goal.
- The Sun Devils did not lose by more than one goal in any game last season.
- Arizona State outshot Central Oklahoma 43-39.
- Freshman goalie Jordan Gluck did not make the trip, and Levin is expected to start the remaining games on the trip.
- Sophomore forwards Eric Rivard and Chris Burkemper, as well as junior forward Kyle Bowen were all ejected for fighting during the game, along with three Central Oklahoma players.
Arizona State returns to the ice Friday and saturday, then it travels to face No. 3 Oklahoma. Friday's game is at 5:30 p.m. Arizona time and Saturday is at 3:00 p.m. Arizona time. The Sun Devils next home game is Thursday against Liberty at 8:00 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.