It ended with a sour taste, but Arizona State ended its season on Saturday night in their first-ever NCAA Tournament game.
The Devils fell 2-1 against Quinnipiac in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After two periods, ASU trailed 2-0 and had struggled offensively at various points throughout the game. However, a late Brinson Pasichnuk goal cut the deficit, but it would be too little, too late.
ASU’s Cinderella run came to a close.
“It’s never easy losing the final game of the season at a National Tournament, but there is so much to be proud of when it comes to our players and our program. We will learn from this and we will build from it,” head coach Greg Powers said.
Quinnipiac’s first goal of the night came less than 10 minutes into the opening frame. Off a face-off, Bobcats sophomore defenseman Joe O’Connor slung a shot through the wickets of ASU junior goaltender Joey Daccord.
The play occurred in a blink of an eye, and it was an odd sequence for a first goal in a big postseason matchup.
“Off the face-off, it was kind of tied up and it was stuck...I was trying to find the puck and I couldn’t find the puck,” Daccord said. “One of their guys just kind of hacked at it randomly and it happened to catch me by surprise.”
Despite the early Quinnipiac lead, ASU found its footing after the first 10 minutes of the period. They trailed 11-8 in shots after a slow start. However, a late penalty set the stage for a big Bobcat second.
“I just feel like we had a lack of energy in the first. In the second, they took it to us and they took it to us really good,” Powers said. “Starting the penalty off on a two minute kill on clean ice, it just gave them a lot of momentum and they carried it for most of the period.”
ASU was outshot 18-2 in the frame and Quinnipiac scored its second goal of the game on a rebound attempt in front of Daccord midway through the period. Entering the third, the Devils had their work cut out for them.
After still being shut out for the first 10 minutes, a breakthrough occurred. While surveying the blue line, Pasichnuk found a shooting lane and snapped a wrist shot into the back of the net with traffic in front of Quinnipiac goaltender Andrew Shortridge.
All of a sudden, it was a whole new game.
ASU found life and came forth with a variety of scoring chances. However, a five-minute major penalty would make the comeback bid more difficult. With under three minutes remaining, the Devils and freshman defenseman Jarrod Gourley were issued a five-minute major for a hit from behind that resulted in a game misconduct.
The Devils still found a way to generate a couple scoring chances, including a shot that rang off the post from sophomore forward Johnny Walker, but the furious comeback would fall just short.
“The major was important, obviously. It took some momentum away but I do not think they got a shot (on the power play). We still had to push...We were all over them and we did all we could to tie that thing up, but we just couldn’t buy one,” Powers said.
Altogether, it was a valiant effort in the end. A tough second period and early part of the game was the difference, but as they had all year, ASU did not go away. For a team that wasn’t expected to go anywhere at the beginning of the year to be playing in its first NCAA Tournament game, there was nothing to be ashamed of.
ASU hung around until the very end against a top Quinnipiac program and fell just short. Regardless, Powers and his troops noted this will not be the last time you hear about his regiment from Tempe. Saturday was just the start.
“To make a national tournament in our third full season is a special accomplishment that nobody outside of our locker room thought we could do,” Powers said. “We knew at the beginning of the season that we had a pretty good team that could do some special things. Anyone that says we didn’t belong her or we didn’t deserve to be here, they are wrong and they couldn’t be more wrong...The takeaway is that we all know we are going to be back and it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”