STRONGSVILLE, Ohio– Two down, two to go.
ASU pulled out an impressive win Sunday night, skating by Lindenwood 5-2 to reach the national tournament semifinals for the third-consecutive year. But the team isn't wowed by being one of the last four standing.
"It doesn't matter if you lose in the semis or you lose in the first round, it's the same result," coach Greg Powers said. "We didn't come here to get to the semis, we came here to win four games."
ASU dominated for most of the game, particularly early on. Just six minutes into the game, Ryan Belonger collected the puck on a dump from Patrick Yudez and sent a no-look feed into the front of the net. Sean Murphy was there and he roofed it top-shelf to give ASU the lead.
Not quite two minutes later Lindenwood goalie Michael Hails found himself on the business end of a Sun Devil two-on-one with Connor Mailey and Michael Cummings. Mailey raced down the left-wing boards and dished it over to Cummings who redirected it past a sprawling Hails for the second goal of the game.
Mailey and Cummings flanked Kyle Bowen on the fourth line, and the trio has become one of ASU's most dependable lines. They, along with the line of Eric Rivard and the Norris brothers, are the only line to stay together from the end of the regular season into nationals.
"We're all energy guys," Cummings said. "We work our bags off for each other and hold each other accountable in the defensive zone."
One line making its debut performance this tournament is Belonger-Murphy-Yudez. The three had a line goal to open the scoring, but then the Sun Devils could not quite put Lindenwood away. Liam Norris and Connor Schmidt each had a goal, but so too did two Lions and it was 4-2 in the third.
You never want to keep a team hanging around, but when Lindenwood forward Kevin Walters took a slashing penalty with two minutes left in regulation, it appeared to be over. Then when Yudez netted his team's fifth goal, it was.
"It's always a good relief," Yudez said. "Definitely at that point in the game, we're kind of scrambling around but it's a good insurance goal to get."
Sophomore Lucas Felbel started in net for the Sun Devils and looked strong. He allowed only two goals, one of which he was caught leaning two far while tracking a player into the slot who fired it by him. The second was a mad scramble in front of the net and Lindenwood tapped it in. He is expected to start Monday.
"We know we can rely on Felbel back there, he's proven it twice now," Cummings said. "It's hard to replace a guy like (Robert) Levin, who was the tournament MVP last year and played most of our games this year. For Felbs to step in like that and play how he's playing, it's a huge weight off our shoulders."
ASU will play the winner of Sunday night's quarterfinal game between Robert Morris and Stony Brook. Regardless of which team it is, it will be a rematch from last year's national tournament. ASU defeated Stony Brook in the semifinals 4-3 and beat Robert Morris 3-1 in the national title game.
ASU will play at 2 p.m. Arizona time Monday.
Update: Stony Brook beat Robert Morris 5-4. ASU will play Stony Brook in the semifinals.