The Sun Devils closed out their final weekend of the 2015-16 season in patriotic style, welcoming in the U.S. National Under-18 team Saturday at Oceanside Arena.
It was a physical contest from the drop of the puck, but in the end the Sun Devils and the U.S. U-18 would need overtime and ultimately a shootout to decide this one.
While the game officially goes down as a tie, the U.S. team would win the shootout off of a Clayton Keller winner. This marks the fifth time that the Sun Devils have tied this season.
"We played hard, no complaints," said ASU coach Greg Powers. "That's, obviously, a really good team that we went toe-to-toe with. We could have easily won that game. Hopefully tonight will give our guys the confidence they need to go into tomorrow and get a win."
The first period didn't have a lot of goals, but it sure had it's fair share of physicality.
Between the two sides, there were seven penalties, four of which were for roughing. The Sun Devils had three power plays in the first frame, but could cash-in.
In the second, they would get plenty of more chances with a man advantage and they finally put one home. Joe Lappin, who came off a hat-trick against Arizona, got the Sun Devils on the board. Ed McGovern joined the party less than a minute later, pushing the Sun Devils lead to two goals.
The U.S. U-18 team got one back on a power play, as Luke Martin blasted the puck home, pulling the score to 2-1. After seven penalties in the first, both squads followed that up with seven penalties in the second. That goal snapped a scoreless streak of 173:49 for the Sun Devils, which included shutouts from both tonight's starter Robert Levin and David Jacobson.
It wouldn't take the U.S. U-18 team too long to even things up, as Patrick Khodorenko netted the game-tying goal just 6:20 into the final frame. That would be the last batch of scoring for the period, and the rest of the game, as overtime still wouldn't be enough. Keller would put the game-winner home after a really nifty set of stick handles.
"We have to play physical against that team and take away their time and space, and if we don't then we won't have a chance," Powers said. "They're too skilled. You saw that kid [Keller] in a shootout. That's a future Patrick Kane, literally. He's that good."
In total, the two teams combined for a blackjack worth of penalties — 21. The Sun Devils went 1-for-7 on power play opportunities. Both sides of special teams were crucial in a game like this one.
"It was big," Powers said. "I thought our power play hummed it around really well and had some good chances and our kill did a really good job. We almost got through that instance where they got the power play goal on us, and just couldn't quite get through it and their other kid that's going to be a top-10 NHL draft pick [Kieffer Bellows] put it in. Proud of our guys, that's a good effort. Tomorrow it's got to be even better to end the season on a really positive note."
These two teams will be right back at it Sunday, this time at Gila River Arena, as the Sun Devils close out their first Division I season at 7:00 PM MST.