Friday night No. 1 Arizona State squeaked out a win against No. 12 Illinois. Arizona State allowed the Illini to hang round, and it almost cost them before holding onto win 2-1.
Saturday was different. The Sun Devils came out crisp, and won in 3-1 in a far more convincing fashion than the 3-1 score would suggest.
"I thought we were way better in every way," coach Greg Powers said. "The attention to detail was there tonight more than last night."
Forwards Sean Murphy and Eric Rivard combined for all three of the Sun Devil goals, and including defenseman Connor Schmidt, the trio had all seven points.
Rivard bookended the scoring with a goal in the first and third period, but it was Murphy's goal in the second that was the jaw-dropper. he took the puck coast-to-coast with speed up the right wing side and popped a goal top-shelf.
"I just try to pick up as much speed around the net and I caught a couple guys flat-footed so I just decided to take it," Murphy said. "I decided to throw it on net and caught the goalie off a little bit."
Sparks started flying at the end of the second period when Arizona State defenseman Drew Newmeyer appeared to hit an Illinois skater after the whistle sounded to end the period. The Illini went down, and his bench exploded in anger.
Schmidt was paired with Newmeyer, and he and Powers both felt Illinois overreacted.
"Newy's not the kind of guy to do that, so it's kind of funny at first," Schmidt said. I've been trying to stay out of trouble lately, so I slowly went over there, but nothing really happened."
Arizona State has next next week off before finishing the first half of the season in Tucson Dec. 5-6 against rival Arizona. It is the second year in a row the Sun Devils finished the first half of the season undefeated at home. Powers' next win will be the 150th of his career, and he has a chance to do it against the Wildcats.
Three stars (selected by media:
Third star: Robert Levin, goalie, Arizona State: 26 saves
Second star: Eric Rivard, forward, Arizona State: 2 goals
First star: Sean Murphy, forward, Arizona State: Goal, two assists