Two power play goals from Sun Devil junior forward James Sanchez would be all Arizona State (7-4) needed to get past the Vermont Catamounts (1-9-1) on Friday night at Oceanside Ice Arena.
Both of Sanchez’s goals came in the second period, and they would lead the way on the scoreboard.
“Special teams was going tonight, and that was huge for us,” Sanchez said. “Playing with Komo (Demetrios Koumontzis) and Walks (Johnny Walker), I think we really just have good team chemistry. We always find a way, and we are going to just try to keep that going every game.”
As noted above, both Sun Devil goals came on the man advantage. The top unit was firing on all cylinders, and it was evident in their play.
On the first Sanchez goal, ASU sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco evaded one incoming Vermont forechecker, then dropped a backhand saucer pass on the tape of Sanchez, who proceeded to drill a shot over the left shoulder of Catamount senior goaltender Stefanos Lekkas, who had been perfect up until that point.
Sanchez let loose a dance after his strike, and it gave the Sun Devils the first goal of the evening.
Then later on in the second period at the 18:30 mark of the frame, ASU was rewarded with a 4-on-3 advantage after a few penalties that piled up. That created more room for open ice, and Sanchez lit the lamp for the second time when he walked into the slot and got one past Lekkas.
Sanchez, who is a transfer from Michigan, continues to rack up his point totals as the leading scorer on ASU’s roster. When asked about his tear, he once again redirected his answer to his linemates.
“It’s a nice start, but again, I have Komo, Walks, Brinny (Brinson Pasichnuk), and Manny (Josh Maniscalco) so it’s definitely a lot easier,” Sanchez said. “I am just very fortunate to be playing with those guys.”
Speaking of those other guys, both sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco and senior defenseman and captain Brinson Pasichnuk assisted on ASU’s two goals. The blue line pairing continues to impress.
Additionally, special teams was pivotal on both the Sun Devil power play and penalty kill. The biggest moment of Friday’s game came on an ASU PK.
Entering the final 20 minutes of play, the Sun Devils held a 2-0 advantage. However, Vermont junior forward Ace Cowans punched home a loose puck on a scramble in front of the ASU net, cutting the 2-0 lead in half with a whole 17 minutes left to play.
Then with just over 10 minutes remaining, ASU was assessed two penalties in a span of four seconds.
Sophomore forward Jordan Sandhu went off for hooking, and senior forward Steen Pasichnuk was called for covering the puck off of a face-off, which was a whistle that came much to the dismay of Sun Devil head coach Greg Powers.
Suddenly, ASU was dealt with quick adversity, but they didn’t flinch. The Sun Devils killed off the 5-on-3.
During the sequence, sophomore goaltender Evan DeBrouwer was stout, and his teammates helped around him. Powers was pleased with his team’s resilience all the way across the board.
“Our kill has always kind of been our saving grace. I can’t say I agreed with us being down 5-on-3. I was pretty shocked that it happened,” Powers said. “Our guys fought through it and didn’t give up much.”
The best penalty-killer is always the goaltender as well, and DeBrouwer was up to the task all night on Friday as he made 29 saves on 30 shots.
He continues to settle in as ASU’s No. 1 netminder. Friday’s contest was a matter of getting in a rhythm for the man between the pipes, and he was steady throughout.
“I was fortunate that tonight, they had a few chances early in the game,” DeBrouwer said. “For a goalie, that’s what you want. I think I had three shots right off the bat, and after that I felt fine and really confident.”
Ultimately, ASU outshot Vermont 33-30, and they had a variety of grade-A chances and odd-man rushes that were turned to the way side due to Lekkas, who is one of the best goaltenders in college hockey.
With Sanchez, special teams, and DeBrouwer leading the charge, the Devils’ earned a hard-fought victory. They return to the ice tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. looking for a sweep against the Catamounts.
“You got to win games like that after being off for 20 days...We didn’t give up too much, and there were a lot of chances we didn’t convert on. But special teams won us the game,” Powers said. “We pride ourselves on playing the right way and we can be better, and I think we will be a lot sharper and more crisp tomorrow. But overall, it’s a good win against a Hockey East team. We’ll take it.”
Off-ice news, players dismissed from program
Swirled around in the middle of Friday’s ASU victory was big off-ice news prior to puck drop with the Catamounts.
In a story first reported by the Walter Cronkite Sports Network, it was confirmed that freshman forwards Logan Jenuwine and Carson Briere have been dismissed from the program due to a violation of team rules. There was no further comment from the team, but both players were removed from the Sun Devil roster.
Jenuwine had four points in 10 games played, and was viewed as a prolific goal-scorer with top-line talent who was a big part of the program’s future. The Michigan native lit up the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in juniors last year with 60 goals.
Meanwhile, Briere wasn’t going to suit up with ASU until next year, but he was using this season as a redshirt. Both players who are now gone from the program were apart of the 2019 recruiting class.
We will provide more updates on the situation and the two players’ dismissals if there are any further details provided over the next few days.