No. 14 Arizona State (14-8-3) was entering into another hard-fought battle going into the third period. The Sun Devils were knotted at one with the Rochester Institute of Technology (11-9-3) with 20 minutes left to play.
ASU has been in a lot of tight-knit hockey games down the stretch of games this season, and it appeared that Friday night would be no different.
However, a dam broke open early in the third period and it continued to flood. Over the span of four minutes and 48 seconds, the Devils netted five goals, providing disaster for RIT in an eventual 6-1 loss. That span also included two goals in seven seconds.
“I don’t think the third felt much different than the second. The only difference was we were putting the puck in the net,” said ASU head coach Greg Powers of the onslaught. “The guys played with pace tonight, and for the most part, played the right way.”
The third period blitz started with freshman defenseman Jacob Semik. On a setup from senior forward Brett Gruber, Semik activated into the offensive zone, and he squeaked a shot off the glove of the RIT goaltender and into the net.
“The coaches have been working with me a lot on jumping up and being more assertive,” said Semik of his goal. “I just tried to play my game tonight and do more than I have been in previous games. It was nice to have their support with letting me loose a little bit and tonight it showed.”
That tally looked like it could be all ASU needed for a win, but they were far from finished. Junior forward Johnny Walker scored just over 30 seconds later on a feed from sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco, then freshman defenseman Jack Judson joined the goal party one minute and 26 seconds later.
Junior forward Willie Knierim and sophomore defenseman Jarrod Gourley punched home two more goals for good measure, and RIT senior goaltender Logan Drackett was yanked as the game got too far out of hand.
Up until the downpouring, Drackett had otherwise made some big stops for the Tigers, including a few point blank saves in the second period. Nevertheless, the third period would be the downfall.
With six goals from six different goal-scorers, the dagger had been plunged into the Tigers. For the second consecutive game, ASU had a third period push to lead them to victory.
“We have been in this position so many times, just like last week against Brown,” Powers said. “We’ve been in a position down going into the third and hadn’t come back and won yet. We have been in a position six times where we were tied going into the third and we hadn’t won...We need to win these games, and the guys really stepped up.”
In net, grad transfer Max Prawdzik got his third start of the year. Although ASU cruised after the five goals, the transfer would be pivotal in the win.
Moments before the Sun Devils’ push, Prawdzik had two stops, including a breakaway save off a blatant turnover and a blocker save on a wrist shot from the slot.
It helped put things at ease for the rest of the team, and it allowed ASU to gain its own momentum. Altogether, he made 24 saves, stringing together his second consecutive game where he has appeared in net to help come out victorious.
He earned trust after his performance last Sunday at Brown, and Powers rewarded him for his efforts.
“Obviously I was excited when coach told me I was going to play,” Prawdzik said. “The guys did a good job and there wasn’t anything too crazy...It kind of let me settle in and it was nice getting some shots early and it was pretty smooth. In the third period, we had a couple turnovers but it was a good opportunity to try and help my team out and overall, the guys just did a really nice job.”
Among other notes, Walker had a goal and an assist, marking eight points in his last five games. He also nearly put home a miraculous seventh goal in which he tried to lift the puck on his stick and roof it over the shoulder of the goaltender from behind the net.
Or in other words, he tried to pull off the infamous ‘Michigan play’ from Mike Legg in the 1996 NCAA Tournament against Minnesota.
Powers chuckled when asked about Walker’s attempt.
“Nothing surprises me with that kid,” he said.
ASU is now on a three-game winning streak after falling to Michigan Tech on Jan. 4. Now they will go for a home sweep tomorrow night.
“We never questioned the backbone or the character that we have in our room,” said Powers of avenging third period closeouts from earlier in the year. “We know we have what it takes to do some special stuff, and that was a fun team to watch play tonight.”