It took less than 30 seconds for No. 16 Arizona State (18-10-1) to get its feet under them while they were on the road at the Rochester Institute of Technology (12-10-3) on Friday night.
26 seconds into the first period, ASU junior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk unwinded from the blue line with a slap shot. His initial shot was blocked, but the carom went right back to him and he gave it another try.
The second time, the shot got through and hit the stick of senior forward Dylan Hollman on its way to the net. The puck redirected past the shoulder of RIT sophomore goaltender Ian Andriano. ASU found themselves ahead 1-0 in the blink of an eye, and it would be a tale of what was to come.
The Sun Devils scored early, and they scored often as they handed the Tigers a 6-1 defeat at the Gene Polisseni Center.
Pasichnuk, Hollman, and senior forward Anthony Croston all sustained three-point night’s and Pasichnuk scored two consecutive goals in the third period. Junior forwards Brett Gruber and Tyler Busch also added tallies.
The offense was on display when it got its opportunities. RIT outshot ASU 34-30, but defensive struggles and self-inflicted miscues allowed the Devils to capitalize and run up the scoreboard.
For instance, ASU’s second goal of the game came on a blind, backhand RIT pass that was intercepted by the Sun Devils at their own blue line. With a 3-on-2 rush, sophomore forward Johnny Walker found junior forward Brett Gruber, who sniped home a shot up high on the odd-man attack.
ASU faced Andriano, who was the Tigers’ backup goaltender. RIT’s normal starter, sophomore Logan Drackett, was in uniform but did not get the nod in a non-conference game. The team was also without one of their top point-scorers in senior forward Gabe Valenzuela, who was dealing with an injury.
Andriano made saves to keep his team in the game early on, but he also had some goals that he might want to have back. Particularly after RIT scored its first goal of the game. The strike occurred when junior forward Ryan Kruper slid a blind wrist shot past ASU junior goaltender Joey Daccord off a face-off. The goal was the only small blemish on what was otherwise another stellar outing for the Ottawa Senators draft pick.
The goal gave RIT momentum. Minutes later, they went on the power play after a minor penalty to Gruber. Then came the goal that Andriano might want to have back. Shorthanded, Hollman fired a high wrist shot from out wide that snuck over the glove of Andriano.
The goal gave ASU a 4-1 lead late in the second, and it shifted any possible RIT momentum back to the ASU bench.
Pasichnuk added nails to the coffin in the third and the Devils skated off with a victory. Along with a very strong game from the likes of Croston and Hollman, ASU pulled away.
As for goaltending, don’t think that because ASU put up six goals that Daccord had a night off. He was his usual self, making 33 saves en route to the win. There were a variety of grade-A opportunities, but as he often does, Daccord shut the door.
It was the third time all season that ASU has scored six goals or more, and it was a season-high for goals in a game on the road.
With the NCAA Tournament looming, Friday was yet another big road win to help bolster the Devils’ resume. Five games remain, and a road sweep of RIT can narrow the magic number on ASU’s tournament hopes.
It’s hard not to look ahead, but that is exactly what ASU will have to do. It’s one game, one shift, and one period at a time. And tomorrow, ASU will go for its eighth series sweep of the season as they continue to write their own history book.