Oceanside Arena was home to a playoff atmosphere on Friday night when rivals Arizona State and Minot State clashed for the second straight night. Like Friday, it was the Sun Devils who came out victorious, staying calm in a very uncalm game and leaving with a 4-2 win.
"There was a point in time where we really had to struggle to beat that team," Arizona State coach Greg Powers said. "We’ve won six straight against these guys, and we may see them again at nationals."
The rivalry has been a streaky one. Minot State won four in a row in 2012-13, while the Sun Devils have taken the last six, including in the quarterfinals of the national tournament last season and all four this year.
In Friday’s come-from-behind win, Connor Schmidt committed a bad turnover that led to a Minot goal. On Saturday, Minot State took advantage of another egregious Schmidt turnover, as the Arizona State defenseman’s pass led to an open shot on goal for Minot State star Jeremy Johnson. Johnson didn’t disappoint, and fired a one-timer that cleared the reach of Robert Levin for an early Beavers goal.
The Beavers maintained their lead until the 6:40 mark of the first period, when Michael Cummings took a Tommy Cooney pass and beat Hengen for Arizona State’s first goal of the night. The Sun Devils would get more opportunities in the first period, but neither Sean Murphy or Kory Chisholm could capitalize on their chances and the two rivals ended the opening period at a 1-1 deadlock.
In the second period, the Sun Devils matched Minot State’s physicality, and their efforts did not go unrewarded. After nearly 13 minutes and trading saves and hits, Arizona State took its first lead of the night when Tommy Cooney sprinted down the ice and received a pass from Connor Mailey. While Cooney’s momentum from skating the length of the ice carried him into the net, he was able to gather the puck and fire off a quick shot past Hengen before crashing into the goal. The goal counted, and Arizona State took a 2-1 lead that would hold through the remainder of the period.
The intensity ramped up further in the third period as the two ACHA giants continued their duel. While both teams dealt crushing checks throughout the period, it was the Sun Devils who were able to take advantage of the amplified physicality. Working on a power play, Arizona State wasn’t able to score and almost gave up a short-handed goal to Minot State. But the Sun Devils’ two minutes of 6-on-5 extended for another few seconds as the Minot State defender took a few seconds to return to the action, and the Sun Devils took advantage as Liam Norris upped the lead to 3-1 with a goal. So while the goal technically goes down as a normal goal, it came against four Beaver defenders.
"I think it was good to, well I guess it wasn’t part of the power play, but to finally somewhat produce on the power play after last night," Norris said. "I got lucky, it just bounced to me."
As tensions built in what could end up as the last meeting between the teams this season, the emotions eventually boiled over and resulted in a scuffle between the two squads. Minot State sent three guys to the penalty box while Arizona State had one man sent to jail, but it was the Sun Devils who were given a one-man advantage on the ice. Chris Burkemper immediately took advantage, firing a shot past Hengen to add insult to Minot State’s self-inflicted injury. Burkemper’s goal put the game out of reach, and while Minot State scored late in the period, the Sun Devils held on for the victory.
Three Stars (selected by media)
Third star: Robert Levin, goaltender, Arizona State.
Second star: Liam Norris, forward, Arizona State (one goal)
First star: Tommy Cooney, forward, Arizona State (one goal, one assist)