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ASU Hockey: Chemistry of Sean Murphy, Eric Rivard spark Sun Devil victory

Sean Murphy and Eric Rivard combined for six points to ensure ASU did not lose back-to-back games.

Courtney Pedroza/House of Sparky

ASU hockey hasn't lost back-to-back games in nearly two calendar years. When that happened - Feb. 15-16 - was the last time ASU lost twice in a season to the same team.

The No. 1 Sun Devils made sure both streaks stayed intact Friday night, knocking off No. 2 Central Oklahoma 7-2, behind arguably the best games of the season from forward Sean Murphy and Eric Rivard.

"We dictated the play, we were all over them in the offensive zone from start to finish," Murphy said. "I feel like we gave our team a lot of momentum today."

Murphy and Rivard have been playing on the same line since the national tournament, and the two might have the best chemistry of any forwards on the team. They combined for six points Friday, with each notching two goals and Murphy dishing out two assists.

Powers is known to switch up lines with regularity, but it's safe to same Murphy and Rivard will stick together.

"It just stems from a national chemistry," coach Greg Powers said. The pair played three years of junior hockey together in the NAHL, making this their fifth year playing together.

Not to take away from Rivard's goals because both had a pair, but Murphy's belonged on the highlight reel.

In his first, Murphy parked to left of Central Oklahoma goaltender Tory Caldwell and sauced across the ice to Liam Norris on the other side. Norris tried a shot but it was deflected, right back to Murphy who slid it past Caldwell for the third Sun Devil goal.

On his second, he showed off his blinding speed to blow past a Central Oklahoma defenseman. He skated around him on the right wing side, got in front of Caldwell and roofed it past him for his second goal of the game and the team's fifth.

"I've been trying to use my speed so I just took off," Murphy said. "The goalie gave me the upstairs so I took it."

It didn't start off pretty for the Sun Devils. For the second night in a row they fell behind early when forward Brandon Harlet snuck one past ASU goalie Robert Levin midway through the first. ASU scored the next three, but Central Oklahoma got one back from Chad Roorda with 12:56 left in the second.

ASU led 3-2, then Levin stepped up. He stuffed a breakaway just moments after Roorda's goal that would have tied the game, and instead Rivard buried ASU's fourth goal of the game. Levin did not allow a goal in the final 32:56 of the game and finished with 22 saves.

"You know he wants those two goals back," Powers said. "He's able to put those behind us and make big saves for us. That's why he's the best goalie in the ACHA."

Powers said he expects Levin to start Saturday night, his third game in a row.

Thursdays win put ASU back into first place in the Western Collegiate Hockey League, having fallen behind after Thursdays loss to Oklahoma coupled with Central Oklahoma's win over Arizona. ASU won the cup for the winning the conference last season in its inaugural year, and Powers stressed how important repeating as WCHL champions is.

"They're a league rival and that trophy in the room is on the line," Powers said. "We need to win another one tomorrow to make sure that stays in Tempe."

Three stars

Third star: Robert Levin, goaltender, Arizona State. Two goals allowed, 22 saves.

Second star: Eric Rivard, forward, Arizona State. Two goals.

First star: Sean Murphy, forward, Arizona State. Two goals, two assists