Coming off a 4-2 loss on Friday at Agganis Arena, No. 17 Arizona State (17-10-1) bounced back on Saturday with a 3-0 shutout against Boston University (10-10-3).
On full display was two of the Sun Devils’ Hobey Baker Finalists. Junior goaltender Joey Daccord had a 28-save shutout, which was his NCAA-leading seventh of the season.
Moreover, sophomore forward Johnny Walker had two goals, as he is now up to 21 goals in 28 games to lead the nation.
Walker scored the second and third goals for the Devils, but the first strike came from sophomore forward Filips Buncis on an assist from senior forward Anthony Croston. The duo combined for ASU’s opening goal on Friday, and they put forth a feeling of deja vu on Saturday against the Terriers.
The first goal came just over three minutes into the second period, and it broke the scoreless draw.
Later in the frame, Walker tipped home his first goal of the night on a heavy wrist shot from freshman defenseman Josh Maniscalco. Maniscalco surveyed the blue line looking for a shooting lane, and he was able to muster a shot toward the front of the goal. Walker tipped the puck, and it found its way into the back of the net to make the score 2-0.
Then in the third, Walker scored again on a rebound that he put past BU freshman goaltender Vinnie Purpura.
Purpura’s start in net on Saturday might have been intriguing for the Sun Devils as well. The game was the freshman’s second career start. Junior goaltender Jake Oettinger picked up the win the night prior for Boston. Nonetheless, ASU was able to take advantage of Oettinger’s absence by picking up the victory.
ASU outshot Boston 39-28, and they responded well from a loss on Friday. Saturday’s win serves as a big one for the Sun Devils, as they continue their postseason push. To stay highly-ranked in the Pairwise Rankings, and to keep on pace to make the NCAA Tournament, the win was crucial.
Realistically, ASU can likely only drop one, or two games at the most to stay in the driver’s seat to make the tournament. Multiple losses would likely put ASU on the bubble pending any unexpected circumstances.
Now it’s on to the next task. The Devils are back on the road at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). They then return home for their final home series against American International before ending the season at Minnesota.
Six games stand between ASU and the postseason. If the tournament started today, they’d be in. However, it doesn’t, and there is still work to be done if the Sun Devils want to make college hockey history as an independent program.
They still control their own destiny. It’s a team from the desert who has drawn eyes from around the country. It’s not the most traditional college hockey setting, but ask any ASU players or coaches, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Now the question is, will the mantra of “Be The Tradition”, established by head coach Greg Powers, take its next step into the 16-team field of college hockey’s elite?
The next six games will write that story.