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ASU Hockey: Semik’s game-winner lifts Sun Devils past Michigan State

Wild one in East Lansing

Photo courtesy: Notre Dame Athletics

It was a wild last two minutes in the third period as Arizona State (6-13-2) came through with a nail-biting 3-2 victory over Michigan State (6-11-2) to snap the Sun Devils four-game losing streak on Sunday.

With a game-winner from defenseman Jacob Semik, ASU prevailed in East Lansing.

“It was a crazy game and a crazy way to win it,” said coach Greg Powers.

Heading into the third period, both ASU and MSU were knotted at one thanks to an early goal from Sun Devil forward Dom Garcia and a response from Spartan forward Tommy Apap.

Garcia’s goal came on the first shift of the game and 13 seconds in, while Apap’s goal came 36 seconds into the second period. That set the stage for a wild third.

In the final frame, ASU got a big late goal from forward Chris Grando that looked like it would be the game-winner. Off a turnover in MSU’s defensive zone, Johnny Walker rifled a pass over to Grando, who tipped one home in front of the Spartan net.

Despite a late onslaught and push from Michigan State, it appeared ASU closed the game out as the final horn sounded and the Sun Devil bench emptied to congratulate freshman goaltender Cole Brady.

However, the officiating crew retreated and put on the video review headsets and told both teams to remain on the ice. They were going to look something over.

With just over a minute left, the Spartans had a 6-on-4 advantage due to an extra attacker and a Sun Devil in the penalty box. The crew was looking at one play.

On a one-timer from the right circle, MSU forward Mitchell Lewandowski let loose a rocket that was sent into a number of bodies and havoc in front of the goal. The puck appeared to ricochet off something.

When slowed down on video replay, it was clear that Lewandowski ripped his shot and beat Brady on the glove side.

The puck hit the back bar of the goal and bounced in and out in the blink of an eye, and the shot was in the net and past the goal line.

“It was a unique experience,” Powers said. “You think you win a game and then we were walking off the bench and then were told it went in. We knew it went in before they called it on the ice but (when it happened) live, it happened so fast.”

After what looked like a happy celebration due to a closeout victory, ASU was forced to head back on the ice. They didn’t let the momentum last long. The game clock was reset to 1:06.

On the very next shift, a shot was fluttered toward Spartan netminder Drew DeRidder, and he brushed aside a rebound. Activating on the play was Semik, who came diving in and won a race to the puck.

He proceeded to inch it over DeRidder’s pad and past the goal line to give ASU new life just 25 seconds after Michigan State had tied it. It was his second goal of the season.

“To be honest, I just caught it from Johnny and I just wanted to get it to the net with the time remaining. It was kind of a swing and miss but I chip shotted it with an 8-iron and there we were,” Semik joked of the goal sequence.

It would prove to be the game-winner and a sense of relief for a group that has gone through a lot this season on the road.

For the first time nearly all season, the Sun Devils were back at full health too, as forward Willie Knierim returned from an injury that has sidelined him for the last month and a half, and many of the team’s bumps and bruises were finally healed as they lined up to face-off with MSU.

“It was nice to have a full lineup tonight,” Powers said. “It hadn’t really happened all season and we had depth, especially up front. We could really roll those four lines and we could feel it.”

Another standout in the win was Brady, who made 36 saves. After two tune-ups in exhibition games last week against the United States U-18 National Development Program, Brady was sharp and looked to be himself back in net.

He was dealing with mono over the team’s winter break, and had a tough go of things just prior to receiving the illness. On Sunday, he had the looks of the stellar goaltender that he was at the very beginning of the season.

He worked rigorously with goaltending coach Eddie Lack when the team was back in Arizona to ramp up his conditioning, and the end result was a solid outing against the Spartans.

“It’s definitely a crazy season but I’ve kind of tried to take a mindset of taking it one game at a time,” said Brady of his ups and downs both on and off the ice this year. “You can’t look forward too much because obviously things are constantly changing with everything that’s going on right now. Nothing’s guaranteed so just take what you are given and roll with it.”

The Sun Devils will go for a sweep tomorrow, Feb. 15 with puck drop set for 3 p.m. local time.

“It was good to play the UNDP and get a lot of guys who have been out and just have a full team,” Semik said of Sunday’s win. “It’s nice to see guys who have been out of the lineup back in and guys are finding their confidence and we are starting to find our team identity.”