40 seconds separated Arizona State (8-4-2) from the most historic regular season sweep in program history.
No. 4 Denver (9-4-3) pulled its goaltender, and things were dwindling down to the final moments of crunch time. ASU just needed one clear from its defensive zone to seal a victory.
However, it would come to no avail. The Pioneers tied it on a one-timer from sophomore forward Cole Guttman, as the puck just trickled under the glove of ASU sophomore goaltender Evan DeBrouwer and past the goal line.
After a five minute overtime period, ASU and Denver would have to settle for a 2-2 stalemate at Gila River Arena.
“It stings right now probably a little bit more than it should,” said head coach Greg Powers. “We were 40 seconds away from sweeping, and we were a clear away. But that’s a hell of a team and I think as we progress throughout the season, we are going to be able to look at this weekend as a major building block.”
The story in Saturday’s contest wasn’t the Sun Devil scoring, but it was the man in net who carried ASU to a tie. DeBrouwer made a career-high 44 saves on 46 shots, including several acrobatic stops from point blank range.
Simply put, DeBrouwer stood on his head and gave the Sun Devils a huge boost against a Denver squad that was desperate to avoid a sweep.
“I feel terrible for him that we couldn’t just get him one clear and get him the win. He was tremendous and outstanding. He probably had at least 15 grade-A, tremendous saves,” Powers said. “He’s a hell of a goalie.”
DeBrouwer elaborated on his efforts as well, as the netminder was calm, cool, and collected for the entire night.
“I was seeing it (the puck) really well,” DeBrouwer said. “A lot of times when you play a busy game, you see the puck a lot more and there’s a lot of action. It keeps you focused on the game, and I was just seeing it well.”
Denver outshot ASU by over a 2-1 margin as the Pioneers pelted 46 pucks on net, but where the Sun Devils produced their scoring was pouncing on opportunities.
In the second period, the game was scoreless but nearly all puck possession was held in the Pioneer offensive zone. ASU hadn’t registered a shot nearly eight minutes into the frame, but they made their first look count at the 7:56 mark.
On a pass from junior forward Willie Knierim, senior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk split the Denver defense and skated in on DU junior goaltender Devin Cooley.
Pasichnuk mustered a weak backhand shot toward the goal, and Cooley kicked out a juicy rebound. Following the play was sophomore forward PJ Marocco, who proceeded to punch the puck home.
Denver tied the game minutes later on Guttman’s first goal of the game. It occurred on a five-on-three power play. However, it would be short lived as ASU was opportunistic once more and regained the lead on a goal from junior forward James Sanchez.
“I think it speaks to a lot of resiliency against a team like that who was playing downhill on us,” Powers said. “We came back out and took a lead. The five-on-three was just unfortunate.”
Overall, Denver out played ASU, and Powers didn’t dismiss that fact after the game. However, on a night where the Sun Devils didn’t have their A-game, they still found a way to hang in and earn a hard-fought series win.
The Pioneers still skated away without any victories, and the Devils are sure to move up in both the USCHO and PairWise rankings.
For ASU, the tie hurts for the time being, but they were still able to hang with one of the top programs in the country.
It’s a testament to how far the team has come. Powers’ group is 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, and during that stretch, they have won three out of four games against top-10 teams.
The Devils seem to be trending in the right direction as the calendar churns deeper into December.
“We can compete with anybody,” DeBrouwer said. “I think that team over there (Denver) is a really good team and one of the best in the country and we showed that we can play with anybody. Not that we didn’t know that before, but I think for a group like us, it’s nice to play the way that we did.”