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ASU Hockey: Sun Devils split series with Michigan State

Split with Sparty

Photo courtesy: Michigan State Athletics

After Arizona State (6-14-2) pulled out a late-game victory in game one against Michigan State (7-11-2) in yesterday’s matchup, the Spartans returned the favor in game two, as MSU scored a late game-winner in the third period to edge past the Sun Devils 2-1 on Monday afternoon.

The winning goal didn’t come without controversy, however. On the game-winner from Michigan State forward Nico Muller, Muller and ASU defenseman Jacob Semik were jousting for position as a loose puck sat in the crease to the side of Sun Devil netminder Cole Brady.

Semik tied up Muller’s stick, and the two players momentum brought them into the net. Muller ended up bulldozing Brady and his helmet came off as the puck trickled past the goal line.

Goalie interference always seems to have a lot of gray area, but Brady was unable to cover the puck due to the collision. Nevertheless, the officials ruled that there was no interference because Muller was pushed into Brady by Semik. Head coach Greg Powers wasn’t pleased.

“Jacob Semik is a left-handed shot and he was trying to prevent the guy from getting to the net. His momentum was backwards and their player made no effort to avoid our goalie and he barreled into him so hard that his helmet came off,” Powers said of the play (see full sequence below). “That’s directly why they scored that goal and that non-call cost us a hockey game.”

Adding to Power’s frustration was a blown call on the Spartans’ first goal of the game in the first period. The strike came on the power play from MSU forward Jagger Joshua.

The Michigan State man advantage stemmed from a goalie interference call on ASU forward Demetrios Koumontzis.

On a drive to the net, Koumontzis was among a mass of bodies that collided in front of Spartan netminder Drew DeRidder, and he collided with the goaltender while being entangled with another Spartan, allowing the net to come off.

Instead of a no call, the officiating crew called a two minute penalty for goalie interference, and the Joshua goal ensued. The officials later came up to Powers and said the call was incorrect.

The two incidents weren’t the first time this year that ASU has been at the center of some late game controversy, as earlier this season they also fell in a game at Notre Dame where another goalie interference situation took place on a game-winner.

Powers let his frustrations be known.

“Nobody can say we’ve been undiscipline or we’ve been dirty. We’ve been so discipline and treat them with respect, but at the end of the day it’s frustrating because nobody holds them accountable for costing us a goal that they admitted they cost us,” Powers said. “I’m tired of it. No one holds them accountable publicly and they get to go back to their cars and go to their day job on Monday and laugh about it. I have to live with it. Our kids have to live with it. That’s the hard truth here. Our kids have to live with it. That’s the problem, in my opinion, with college hockey.”

The loss was a sour taste in the mouths of Powers and his players, as they felt Brady deserved a far better fate and a shutout for his 22-save effort.

On the other end of the ice, DeRidder was also sharp, making 32 saves, including a couple of robberies on Sun Devil scoring chances.

As for the lone ASU goal, that came on the power play from Koumontzis in the second. Off a friendly carom, he corralled a loose puck and fired it into an open net to beat DeRidder for the first time all night.

After coming back from injury, Koumontzis looked like his old self over the two-game set with the Spartans.

“I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well and our whole team is playing pretty well after that USA series and it’s kind of a fresh start for us building going into next season,” Koumontzis said.

Ultimately, Monday’s second game was a frustrating outcome for a group of Sun Devils that felt like they played more than well enough to win.

Along with some officiating blunders and a solid performance from DeRidder, ASU just couldn’t pull through for the sweep.

“Our team’s not one to make excuses but my penalty in the first period, I don’t agree with and I know our team doesn’t agree with and they scored a goal on that,” Koumontzis said. “Their goal at the end of the game was a little more interference than mine was but that’s how hockey works. You don’t always get the bounces you want or the calls you want. It was a tough ending but there’s nothing you can really do about it.”

Next week’s ASU games at Penn State have been canceled due to COVID-19 issues with the Nittany Lions program, thus, the Devils will return to Arizona for a week before taking part in the final four games of a grueling season.