In a weekend series between the two westernmost programs in NCAA Division I hockey, No. 3 Denver assured Arizona State they are the most elite and talented dynasty out west.
The commanding Pioneers (14-4-4) downed the Sun Devils (7-16-1) with a 5-1 victory in Game 1 on Jan. 6, and a 6-1 Game 2 win on Jan. 7 inside Denver’s state of the art $75 million Magness Arena.
Not only is Denver currently the only team west of Omaha to be ranked in the top 20, but the Pioneers are third all-time behind Michigan (nine) and North Dakota (eight) with seven NCAA tournament championships.
Denver hasn’t missed the NCAA tournament since 2007, and is in strong position to make another run this season to win its eighth championship. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are barely getting their feet wet competing in their first-ever fully-scheduled NCAA Division I season.
Here’s how it played out:
In the midst of a blowout loss, at first, it was all Sun Devils.
GOOOAL!— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) January 7, 2017
One of the best PP's of the year possibly, and @wmurphy93 buries a wrister to make it 1-0! #ASUvsDU pic.twitter.com/4sgLvF5ysO
Nine minutes into the contest, forward Wade Murphy let it be known the Sun Devils didn’t travel up to Denver to just stare at championship banners.
The junior transfer out of the University of North Dakota, played as a Fighting Hawk in the NCAA Frozen Four in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, and he made it clear that he and Arizona State could compete with the west’s best as the Sun Devils led 1-0 for the first 24 and a half minutes of the game.
Then, a sleeping giant was awoken.
Denver scored five unanswered goals, with four in the second period and one last goal four minutes into the third period to win 5-1.
The Sun Devils early lead was broken up by a flurry of penalties. After ASU scored on a power play of its own in period one and another in the second period, the Sun Devils handed the Pioneers five consecutive penalties, resulting in 10 minutes of 4-on-5 hockey.
Denver converted on two of five power plays in period two and enjoyed being up a man for almost one-third of the game as ASU out penalized the Pioneers 11-3, Two Sun Devil penalties were 10 minute misconducts in the third period.
Penalties led to open space for the Pioneers as they dominated on offense. Denver outshot Arizona State 47-19 as sophomore goalie Ryland Pashovitz saved 42 shots posting a .894 save percentage.
Despite ASU falling 6-1, Saturday’s contest was a much cleaner one for the Sun Devils.
Arizona State committed nearly half as many penalties (six) resulting in two power-play goals for the Pioneers.
Despite the shortage of penalties, Arizona State was still outplayed, outscored and outmatched. The Pioneers toppled the Sun Devils with six goals on 48 shots.
All six goals were scored before ASU’s lone strike from freshman forward Brett Gruber with just over two minutes left in the game.
The Pioneers’ almost-50 shots forced the Sun Devils to use two goalies as Pashovitz played the first 29 and a half minutes blocking 28 of 31 shots and freshman Joey Daccord filled in for him the rest of the game and saved 14 of 17 shots.
After playing their ninth ranked opponent of the season, the road of ranked teams continues for the Sun Devils. Arizona State plays another top-tier program in No. 11 Ohio State (10-4-4) hitting the road for their eighth and ninth consecutive contests on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14.