STRONGSVILLE, Ohio- In 2012, Penn State was playing in its final ACHA season before moving to NCAA Division I the following year. Penn State lost in the semifinals.
In 2015, ASU was playing in its final ACHA season before moving to NCAA Division I the following year.
Amongst everything - losing the team's most prolific goal scorer after two games, losing the captain for an extended period of time, playing with only five defensemen at times, losing six players to Team USA, losing the starting goalie - the Sun Devils still looked like they had just a little more magic left.
Then they played their semifinal game against Stony Brook and lost 2-1.
"Right now it hurts and it's going to hurt for awhile," coach Greg Powers said. "It's going to sting for awhile, but I'm proud of them. It's a young team, they're good enough to win it and it just didn't happen."
The game went the first two frames scoreless. Stony Brook and ASU traded opportunities back and forth, but could not beat each other's goalies. In the first period it was Stony Brook's that peppered ASU goaltender Lucas Felbel but Felbel stood tall. Then the ice shifted and the Sun Devils sent shot after shot into Brendan Jones, but couldn't beat him.
Stony Brook finally broke the scoreless tie just over four minutes into the third. It was sophomore Joseph Bochichio who lit the lamp, sending the squeaker on net that bounced its way between Felbel's legs.
After the next faceoff, Stony Brook raced down the ice and junior Tyler Underhill sent the puck on net. Underhill's shot found the stick of sophomore JT Hall and redirected past Felbel, who never had a chance.
Outside of the two goals allowed, Felbel played the first two periods as well as any ASU goaltender has played all season.
"Felbel held us in it," Powers said. "He made the big saves he needed to make, he made all the saves he had to. But when you don't score more than one goal, it's going to be hard to win."
Then ASU kicked it into gear. Playing with a new intensity, they worked the Seawolves for the next four minutes until Kevin Kavanagh boarded ASU forward Ryan Belonger. Kavanagh went to the box and ASU went to the power play.
While with the man advantage, Ed McGovern scored one of the strangest goals of the year for the Sun Devils. David Norris fed him a pass, and from the left circle he missed on the one-time attempt, but not completely. He grazed the puck, just enough to get it moving forward. The trajectory, far from what Jones expected in net, was strange enough to trickle between his legs and bring ASU within one.
ASU needed only one more, but was unable to get it. Even when Stony Brook senior forward Nick Barbera took a tripping call and ASU played the last 1:02 six-on-four, ASU could not find the net. The clock ticked away and Stony Brook advanced to its first national title game in school history.
"It's hard, you want to leave out on top," Powers said. "It's so hard, so hard to win this tournament. ... The deeper you get, the better the teams are you play and that was the best team we played so far in the tournament."
Last year's title run relied on the team's experience. ASU had eight seniors, four of whom were the team's top scorers. This year the Sun Devils had only two: Liam Norris and Faiz Khan.
"What Liam and Faiz meant to our program can't be measured," Powers said. "(Liam) has been one of the all-time greats, he always will be. I hate to see those guys not go out on top, but they were great Sun Devils."
Next season, ASU will play a hybrid ACHA-NCAA schedule. In 2016 it will play a complete NCAA schedule and will join a conference in 2017. Even next year, ASU will be considered an NCAA Division I program.
That makes Monday's loss the final game the team will compete in as an ACHA team. Penn State couldn't win in its last year, and neither could the Sun Devils.
"The reality, and it's a really harsh, harsh and tough reality is that when we leave that room, we'll never be in a room together again," Powers said. "It's sad because we have a hell of a team.
"They were the better team today."