The Arizona State Sun Devils (2-3) put an end to their three-game losing streak Saturday, defeating the visiting New Hampshire Wildcats (2-1) by a score of 5-1.
Senior forward Demetrios Koumontzis scored the game winning goal 4:48 into the third period, one of his two goals on the night. ASU goaltender Cole Brady saved 34 of 35 shots, while his New Hampshire counterparts Mike Robinson and Jeremy Forman saved 16 out of 17 and 13 out of 17, respectively.
Contrary to its first four games of the season, Arizona State’s power play was largely a non factor in the contest. The Sun Devils went 0-3 on the man advantage, scoring all five of their goals at even strength. Koumontzis and freshman Jackson Niedermayer each found the back of the net twice, and senior co-captain Johnny Walker added a tally of his own in the decisive ASU win.
“We didn’t waver,” coach Greg Powers said. “We believe in this team, we believe in every player and it was a matter of time before we started to score some 5-on-5 goals. It was great that the guys got it done tonight.”
ASU had the early advantage, as Wildcats forward Filip Engarås committed a holding penalty just 45 seconds into the game, sending the Sun Devils’s red-hot power play unit into action. ASU had its chances, but Robinson stood tall and kept the game scoreless. The maroon-and-gold’s early edge in shots would not last, as New Hampshire’s forecheck caused frequent issues for Arizona State’s defense, and allowed the Wildcats to claw their way back into the game.
Brady looked sharp early on, easily locating loose pucks in his crease and stopping several point-blank shots from UNH forwards. His lone blemish came 7:21 into the period, when a blocked point shot landed on the stick of New Hampshire’s Robert Cronin, forcing Brady to make an impossibly quick adjustment. Cronin scored, and New Hampshire carried its lead into the first intermission.
The opening minute of the second period unfolded in almost identical fashion to the start of the first frame. Engarås, not content with one opening-minute penalty, took another holding call 40 seconds in, which ASU once again failed to capitalize on. The Sun Devils continued to push for the tie, and got it 4:17 into the period, when Jackson Niedermayer scored his second goal of the season off of a nifty steal and even niftier setup from Jack Jensen.
Shortly after Jensen’s tying goal, Robinson, UNH’s undisputed MVP to that point, did the unthinkable. After struggling to secure a long-distance backhand shot from Johnny Walker, Robinson speared Walker with the knob of his stick and received a match penalty, leaving backup Jeremy Forman to deal with the ensuing five-minute power play immediately upon entering the game. Forman did the most with the hand he was dealt, stopping every shot he faced for the remainder of the penalty and the period.
Things changed quickly once the third period began. ASU tested Forman right away, forcing him to make several reaction saves in the first minute. The pressure continued until the 4:48 mark, when ASU senior forward Demetrios Koumontzis slapped home a Willie Knierim pass for the eventual game winner.
The floodgates opened after Koumontzis’ 2-1 tally. Arizona State would pour on two more goals in the two minutes that followed, one from Niedermayer and one from Walker, before Koumontzis extended the lead even further with a powerful shot over Forman’s blocker. New Hampshire had no answer for ASU’s onslaught, and the 5-1 scoreline would hold until the final buzzer.
“[The 2-1 goal] gave the team a lot of momentum,” Koumontzis said. “The whole team was going, we were getting the puck deep, we were going in hard. Once you get one... it just piles on.”
The Sun Devils will look to carry their momentum into Sunday’s rematch, as they try to get back to .500 on the season. The Wildcats, on the other hand, will do their best to avoid falling back to .500 after a 2-0 start. The teams will face off again at 4 P.M. MST.