Aside from an early goal less than five minutes into the game, there weren’t many positives to take from Arizona State’s (21-11-1) 5-1 beating at the hands of Minnesota (15-15-4).
On the first shot of the game, ASU scored on a goal from senior forward Jake Clifford. However, ASU would probably like to forget everything after that. Minnesota scored five straight goals en route to a 5-1 defeat.
The Golden Gophers outshot ASU 42-15, and at one point through the third, the Sun Devils were issued nine straight penalties without a call against Minnesota. Minnesota was given a few 5-on-3 opportunities, and they scored two power play goals. Some calls were warranted, others might have had question, but either way the penalties were not the reason for the result.
After the first ASU goal, Minnesota took control the rest of the way. The Golden Gophers were more physical, won more battles, and they were stronger on the forecheck to take down ASU.
A cause for concern for the Devils was the absence of the nation’s leading goal-scorer in sophomore forward Johnny Walker, who was not in the lineup after an undisclosed injury that he sustained in practice on Tuesday. Walker made the trip to Minnesota, but it’s likely the team is being more safe, rather than sorry with a possible postseason bid awaiting.
Nonetheless, the offensive skill was missed on the ice. If ASU is to make the NCAA Tournament, the factor they do have working in their favor is that Walker and the training staff will have nearly a full month until the end of March to get healthy before the tournament.
As for the rest of the play, Minnesota freshman forwards Sammy Walker and Blake McLaughlin both had two-point nights along with junior forward Rem Pitlick and senior forward Tyler Sheehy on Friday.
ASU could never really sustain any sort of momentum, and if not for a few great saves by junior goaltender Joey Daccord, the result could have been six or seven goals.
Ultimately, Minnesota was the better team on Friday. That’s not to say they are the better team on the weekend. Eight of the Devils’ 11 losses this year have come on Friday’s. It’s not the most favorable trend but if ASU has proven one thing, it’s their ability to bounce back, especially on the road.
Friday night losses were suffered at Boston Unversity, at Penn State, at Harvard, and in the opening game of the Desert Hockey Classic against Clarkson. All of those efforts resulted in stronger play the following night.
It’s no easy task to go into another team’s home building in game one of a road trip. It’s a tall assignment in college hockey. Nevertheless, the formula of taking care of business at home mixes well with road splits. It often is the mix to lift teams to the NCAA Tournament.
That’s what the Devils have done. Their resiliency will be tested one final time this regular season against Minnesota on Saturday night. To add in some extra emotion and challenges, it will also be the Golden Gophers’ senior night. Puck drop for game two at Mariucci Arena is set for 6 p.m. local time.