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ASU Hockey: Sun Devils sweep RIT behind Knierim’s big night

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Back-to-back sweeps

Richard Martinez/House of Sparky

For the second consecutive night, No. 14 Arizona State (15-8-3) secured a victory by using a strong third period effort to defeat the Rochester Institute of Technology (11-10-3) at Oceanside Ice Arena.

The Sun Devils upended the Tigers by a final of 5-3 courtesy of two big goals in the final 20 minutes, helping to seal off a second straight series sweep.

“We are at the point in the year where we need to collect wins to get to the tournament,” said ASU head coach Greg Powers of his team’s sweep. “It’s one at a time and now we’ve won four in a row and five of six. The guys are playing well and I still think we could be even better.”

Knotted at three going into the final frame, ASU had two goals courtesy of sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco and junior forward James Sanchez.

On Maniscalco’s go-ahead goal, he drove the center lane while senior forward Tyler Busch was out wide on the wing. Busch flipped a pass in the air toward a hard-skating Mansicalco, and he proceeded to knock down the flying biscuit in front of the RIT net.

The puck died right in the blue paint, and then the second-year defenseman tapped the puck home, giving the Sun Devils a 4-3 advantage.

Similar to how ASU freshman defenseman Jacob Semik activated from the defensive zone the night prior, Maniscalco did the same thing, and he was rewarded with a big goal.

“He made a great play in the d-zone to break a play up and kind of took off on a rush,” said Busch recalling the scoring sequence. “I just tried to join him as fast as I could...I tried to put it in an area for him. It wasn’t a perfect pass but he got a good bounce off it. I am happy to see that go in.”

Just over two minutes later following Maniscalco’s tally, ASU went to the power play and added insurance thanks to a snipe from Sanchez, who fired a shot up high and into the net to make things 5-3.

The two third period strikes would put things away, but prior to those goals was a comeback effort.

Early in the second period, ASU trailed 3-1 courtesy of a few defensive breakdowns. RIT scored two breakaway goals on Sun Devil lapses, and goaltender Max Prawdzik, who started the night prior and earned a victory, was pulled from the game as sophomore goaltender Evan DeBrouwer took over.

“Those three goals weren’t on Max,” Powers said. “I felt kind of bad for him because he wasn’t seeing much action and they essentially had three grade-A’s and scored on all three.”

Nevertheless, those opportunistic goals for RIT wouldn’t faze the Sun Devils. They got right back to work and tied things up at three.

Junior forward Willie Knierim had one of his two goals on a redirection to make the score 3-2, then sophomore forward PJ Marrocco buried a shot on the top shelf to even things up at three.

As quickly as they went down, ASU responded just as fast, setting up the third period finish.

For Knierim, he had three points with two goals on the evening, giving him eight points in his last seven games.

Regardless of his success, he deflected the credit to his teammates.

“I honestly owe it all to my linemates,” said Knierim of his point production. “I really didn’t do a whole lot but we worked them down low pretty well this weekend and I thought we played two good games and got rewarded.”

ASU has now played RIT four times, and the meetings began just last season. In those four contests, the Sun Devils are 4-0 while outscoring the Tigers 21-7.

They took care of business once more, and that now sets up for another road trip when ASU goes back east to take on Clarkson next weekend.

“We’ve now been in any and every situation,” Powers said. “We came back last Sunday down three, we came back tonight down two, we won our game last night going into the third tied. So, we have to draw on all of these experiences where we have found success and continue to do that as we go here down the stretch.”