Despite outshooting No. 17 Harvard (7-4-0) by a 44-30 margin, No. 16 Arizona State (10-7-2) couldn’t take advantage of its opportunities in game one of the SoCal Clash in Irvine on Saturday night.
Led by a big second period and stellar goaltending from freshman goaltender Mitchell Gibson, the Crimson took down the Sun Devils 4-1 in front of a capacity crowd at FivePoint Arena.
“We didn’t have much puck luck and the kid (Gibson) played well,” said ASU head coach Greg Powers. “They are going to get their chances. They are a good team and we have to be a little bit stronger in front of our net, but we had a couple of turnovers on the wall and they were opportunistic.”
Those turnovers that Powers alluded to all came in the second period. That is when the ice seemed to tilt for the Sun Devils, as a few defensive breakdowns came back to haunt them.
On Harvard’s first goal from freshman forward Austin Wong, ASU missed on an opportunity to clear its defensive zone. A puck was kept in near the blue line, and that led to a longer shift.
That led to extended zone time for the Crimson, and a one-timer from Wong in the slot. His shot beat ASU sophomore goaltender Evan DeBrouwer on the glove side, and it rang off the bar and into the goal.
The defensive miscues wouldn’t end there, either. 42 seconds later, the Crimson punched home another one when junior forward Jack Badini cleaned up a loose puck and squeaked it into the goal.
Then to make things 3-0, another missed defensive zone clear came back to haunt the Sun Devils. Harvard took advantage on a shot in the slot.
Sophomore forward Casey Dornbach proceeded to throw one toward the goal, but it was blocked by a Sun Devil forward.
However, on the block, the puck soared high in the air and over the head of DeBrouwer and past the goal line. Within a five-minute spurt, ASU was down three goals.
“They had some puck luck. Three of their goals bounced indirectly in and we didn’t have any,” Powers said. “But we have to be stronger in front of our net and limit those second chance opportunities. Every one of them was a result of us not getting a puck out when we had time to get it out on the wall. Good teams will make you pay for committing those turnovers, and they did.”
The d-zone lapses were all Harvard needed to shut things down. Perhaps ASU’s biggest chance at a comeback occurred in a strong third period push.
Starting the final 20 minutes on the power play after a Harvard minor for too many men on the ice, ASU broke the shutout. Sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco rifled a one-timer that beat Mitchell for the first time all night.
Two minutes later, Sun Devil junior forward James Sanchez had a chance to narrow the gap even more when he got behind the Crimson defense on a breakaway.
He beat Mitchell on the glove side, but his wrist shot sailed wide. ASU pushed, but it would be to no avail as the Harvard netminder stood tall.
“The puck just seemed to find him even when he didn’t see it,” said Powers of Mitchell. “He played really well.”
Overall, ASU’s second period miscues ended up being the difference. The Sun Devils pelted the net and played a strong final 20 minutes, but it would fall short.
“We pride ourselves on having one of the best work ethics and I just don’t think it was there in the second period,” said ASU senior defenseman and captain Brinson Pasichnuk. “They definitely capitalized on a few of our mistakes and it was just too late (in the third period).”
Among other side notes in Saturday’s contest, backup goaltender Max Prawdzik started the third period for ASU in place of DeBrouwer.
It was the second time in as many games that Prawdzik got time in net, but Powers noted that the game didn’t lie on DeBrouwer’s shoulders.
Rather, the move came as a result of wanting more energy and it was to try and provide a jolt on the ASU bench. Powers said that the decision for Sunday’s starter is still to be determined.
Ultimately, Harvard played a solid game after coming off a three-week hiatus. The last time they played was on Dec. 7.
In front of a packed house with a lively crowd, the Crimson was able to take game one.
“It was great to see the building full and good energy,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato. “It’s nice to see college hockey in California.”
Going for a sweep tomorrow, Donato knows his group can’t let off their guard against the Sun Devils. After all, when the two programs met last season back east, ASU stole game two on the road after losing the first matchup.
ASU will look to replicate that formula tomorrow afternoon.
“This is a really strong and resilient group on the other side,” Donato said. “It’s a good test for us tonight, but it’s an even bigger one tomorrow.”