After coming back from down two goals late in the game, No. 20 Arizona State (3-5-1) fell at the hands of Penn State (2-5) 3-2 in overtime on Friday night.
With the five-minute, three-on-three in effect, both teams were looking for the golden goal going into OT. Both sides traded chances, but a poorly timed line change and some weary ASU legs led to a Nittany Lion game-winner.
After being stopped on a breakaway attempt, ASU forward Demetrios Koumontzis got caught on the ice for too long along with Chris Grando and defenseman Jacob Semik.
Penn State proceeded to control the puck and create a flurry of chances in the Sun Devil zone before ASU finally re-controlled the puck. Dead tired from a long shift, Koumontzis lost his stick while Semik back-trekked into his own zone.
He tried looking for an outlet, but both Sun Devil forwards sprung off the ice and toward the bench. The puck was picked up by PSU in the neutral zone and the Nittany Lions re-entered the zone with only Semik back on defense, and a Penn State three-on-one ensued.
A wrist shot was then buried by Connor MacEachern on the blocker side of netminder Evan DeBrouwer.
“I don’t know why for the life of me why they decided to change. I know they were tired, but you still can’t change in that situation,” said head coach Greg Powers of the final play. “I think they thought Sem (Semik) had the puck...and they continued to skate to the bench...It was kind of a bonehead play. You can’t change there. We practice three-on-three a ton.”
It was an unfortunate end for ASU, who had a number of chances just prior to the PSU game-winner.
Nonetheless, it’s part of the madness that comes with open ice, puck possession and three-on-three play in overtime. For the second consecutive game, the Sun Devils were handed a tough loss in a late-game situation.
Penn State put up two goals in the first period, first on the power play, then on a shot from the slot. ASU would respond, however.
In the second period, Willie Knierim got the Sun Devils on the board after he got in one-on-one with Nittany Lion goaltender goaltender Oskar Autio.
Then in the third period, Sean Dhooghe got off the schneid with his first goal of the season to knot the game at two. ASU had clawed its way back after an early deficit.
“He had some glorious chances before that one and he buried that one,” said Powers of Dhooghe breaking through. “That’s one where the monkey is off is back and I think he’ll get going. He’s been playing good hockey and getting chances.”
Heading into the final 10 minutes of the third period, though, the tides started to turn. Penn State generated a variety of scoring chances in the offensive zone, but DeBrouwer was up to the task and turned in his best outing of the year, making 47 saves (new career-high) on 50 shots.
ANOTHER BIG SAVE BY DEBROW!— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) December 12, 2020
He has an on the game-tying goal & several big saves here in the 3rd! pic.twitter.com/XkgjGeyyZ2
His game had flashes of his stellar performance last year against No. 4 Denver, when he made 44 saves in a tie at Gila River Arena. Despite a tough outcome, DeBrouwer kept his team in it toward the latter stages.
“He deserved to win the game. He was fantastic and deserved a better fate,” Powers said. “He was very good.”
HIGH-WAY ROBBERY! ♂️ pic.twitter.com/T1nuzev7Yh— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) December 12, 2020
DeBrouwer also reflected on what was going well for him and how he’s bounced back since a tough start to the season and has found a rhythm.
“I just felt comfortable tonight. We knew that the key to me having a good performance was being in control of my rebounds,” DeBrouwer said. “I thought for the most part, it was definitely my best game of the year as far as controlling rebounds. The other things that I’ve kind of been struggling with just fell into place.”
Penn State flourishes with its offensive play, and despite their losing record going into the game, the team has much more talent than what the record indicated.
Looking to avoid a sweep and three-game losing streak, the Sun Devils will get ready for game two on Sunday afternoon at 12 p.m. local time.
“It was just some mental mistakes tonight that cost us,” Powers said.