The Arizona State Sun Devils (6-4) completed their series sweep of the St. Thomas Tommies (1-9), winning by a score of 4-2 in the second of two meetings between the two squads.
ASU senior forward Colin Theisen scored his first hat trick as a Sun Devil in the win, which included the decisive goal 32 seconds into the second period. Cole Brady stopped 38 of the 40 shots that came his way, bouncing back strongly from his previous start against Colgate, in which he gave up six goals on 28 shots.
If not for a multitude of penalties in the second period, the Sun Devils might well have run St. Thomas out of the building. ASU spent 14 minutes on the penalty kill, thanks in large part to two separate major penalties assessed to Jack Jensen and Tim Theocharidis which disrupted its momentum and allowed the Tommies to claw their way back into the game.
“Tonight wasn’t pretty,” Arizona State coach Greg Powers said. “Obviously (I’m) not happy at all about the penalties that put us on our heels and let (St. Thomas) back in the game. I thought they were both really stupid and they were good calls. It stopped our momentum and we never got it back.”
Unlike in game one, when the two teams were deadlocked after the first period, ASU asserted itself right away in Saturday’s contest. The Sun Devils spent almost the entirety of the game’s first ten minutes at St. Thomas’ end of the ice, and the Sun Devils led 5-0 in shots after their first few shifts. Tommies goaltender Jacob Berger held serve until 7:34 into the action, when ASU senior forward Sean Dhooghe pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone, drove to the net and effortlessly tucked it past Berger for the game’s first goal.
The Sun Devils were determined not to let St. Thomas erase their lead, and quickly doubled down when Josh Doan set up linemate Colin Theisen for an easy tap-in at the edge of the crease just 1:30 after Dhooghe’s goal. At that point, ASU led 9-2 in shots and St. Thomas had only managed to cross the red line on a couple of occasions. The Tommies would get two power plays late in the period but failed to manage any threatening chances on either and the score remained 2-0 heading into the break.
“I thought our first ten minutes were unbelievable,” Powers said. “I thought it was our best ten minutes of the season. You could feel our guys were ready to play tonight.”
Theisen scored again just 32 seconds into the second period, and at that point, it appeared that ASU would run away with the game. St. Thomas, however, had other plans. The Tommies went back to the power play just 17 seconds after Theisen’s 3-0 goal, which seemed to give them an infusion of energy that they lacked in the first period. St. Thomas progressively ate into ASU’s advantage in shots until the 7:55 mark, when ASU freshman forward Jack Jensen was assessed a major penalty for a hit to the head of St. Thomas’ Trevor Ledonne. The Tommies scored 36 seconds into the power play, when a Christiano Versich wrist shot trickled through Brady and narrowly crossed the goal line, but the Sun Devils were able to prevent further damage and killed off the rest of the penalty.
In fact, the Sun Devils were so successful at killing the major penalty that they decided to do it all over again. Less than three minutes after the end of Jensen’s major, Tim Theocharidis earned one of his own on a very similar hit to the head of St. Thomas’ Matthew Jennings. This time, ASU escaped unscathed, and even managed to generate a few 2-on-1 opportunities shorthanded. Ultimately though, they failed to capitalize and carried their 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
“We just put pressure on them,” Theisen said. “We made them panic and when they did, we jumped on loose pucks.”
The third period had little in the way of excitement compared to the first forty minutes of play. St. Thomas continued to press, but ASU mostly held the Tommies to harmless shots from the perimeter that Brady saved with ease. St. Thomas sent Berger to the bench for an extra skater with 3:54 left in regulation, and Theisen scored his hat-trick goal shortly afterward. The Tommies would add another goal with 43 seconds remaining, but it had little effect other than diminishing Brady’s save percentage and embellishing the final score.
As a result of Saturday’s win, the Sun Devils find themselves comfortably above .500 for the first time all season. ASU will have a week off before traveling to Quinnipiac on Nov. 12 and 13, where it will look to extend its winning streak to five games.
“We’ve won five of six games,” Powers said. “We have a ton of confidence and we’ve been a really disciplined team all year. This isn’t going to make us an undisciplined team. It’s a good lesson.”