The Arizona State Sun Devils (3-3) completed their sweep of the New Hampshire Wildcats (2-2), winning the second act of the teams’ two-game set by a score of 5-1.
Freshman defenseman Ty Murchison’s first NCAA goal 1:22 into the second period proved to be the game winner. Four different players scored for ASU, and Sun Devil goaltender Cole Brady stopped 40 of the 41 shots that came his way for his second win of the season. UNH’s Mike Robinson saved 20 of 24 in the loss. ASU’s power play awoke from its extended nap in game one, converting on two of its four opportunities, both courtesy of sophomore forward Matthew Kopperud.
Much like in the first game of the series, Arizona State hit its stride early on. The Sun Devils wasted no time challenging Robinson, as sophomore center Benji Eckerle managed to get two prime scoring chances from the low slot in the first three minutes. Though he failed to capitalize, ASU’s sustained pressure ultimately resulted in a UNH penalty, which ended in a Kopperud power play goal 6:45 into the game. The goal, set up by an impressive Josh Doan pass through the middle of the ice, was Kopperud’s sixth of the season and the twelfth power play tally of the year for the Sun Devils.
“Loved our start,” coach Greg Powers said. “It was really the first early lead this team has had (all season) and we’ve got to be able to play with a lead.”
Following the goal, New Hampshire would start to fight back, and eventually drew a penalty of their own. The Wildcats came close to tying the game on several occasions, but Brady made several close-range stops to preserve the lead and cover up what was otherwise a lackluster kill by the Sun Devils. The unsuccessful power play opportunity evaporated any momentum New Hampshire had managed to create, and the score remained 1-0 in favor of ASU heading into intermission.
The Sun Devils picked up right where they left off at the start of the middle period, as it took only less than two minutes for them to double the lead, as freshman defenseman Ty Murchison cleaned up a Josh Doan rebound and scored his first NCAA goal 1:22 into the period, which would turn out to be the game-winner. Murchison and his defense partner, fellow freshman Ethan Szmagaj, were heavily utilized throughout the series in even strength and penalty killing situations, and performed admirably despite their youth.
“They’re really good already and they’re only going to continue to get better,” Powers said. “We feel comfortable with them in almost every situation and that’s why they’re out there as much as they are. They’re already good but they have an opportunity to be special.”
Arizona State continued to mount pressure following Murchison’s goal, and held a 16-6 advantage in shots at the three-minute mark. The Wildcats returned to the power play thanks to a boarding call against ASU’s Sean Dhooghe, but Colin Theisen threw yet another dagger into their comeback hopes with an impressive end-to-end shorthanded goal that extended the Sun Devils’ lead to 3-0.
New Hampshire would respond following the shorthanded goal, but could not manage to solve Brady, who seemed bound and determined to preserve his clean sheet. ASU would add another goal before the end of the period, as senior defenseman Tim Lovell capitalized on another big rebound with just under six minutes left in the period to put the Sun Devils up 4-0, a lead they would nurse heading into the final period.
The Wildcats pushed back with ferocity in the third period, quickly erasing ASU’s lead in shots. UNH finally managed to get on the board at the five-minute mark, when Harrison Blaisdell tapped home a loose puck from just outside Brady’s crease. The Sun Devils continued to bend, but didn’t break despite continued pressure from New Hampshire. The Wildcats would get two more power plays, but failed to score on either. Robinson went to the bench for an extra skater with two minutes remaining, but quickly had to return to his net after a Cam Gendron slashing penalty. Another Kopperud power play goal with 1:03 left padded ASU’s lead, and the Sun Devils held firm for the remainder of regulation to win 5-1.
ASU’s sweep of the Wildcats was its first outright home series victory since March 2020, and the Sun Devils will look to carry their momentum into their road series with Colgate on Oct. 22 and 23.
“I think we’re barely scratching the surface of how good we can be,” Powers said. “We expect to win a lot of games this year so this is a weekend that (had) a lot of good steps in the right direction. The best is yet to come.”