Arizona State (7-16-3) capped off its 2020-21 season on a high note, defeating Ohio State 5-0 on Friday evening in Columbus.
After a tough loss on Thursday, the Devils bounced back with a jump in their step and they came out firing in the first period. ASU lit the lamp three times in the opening frame, with goals from James Sanchez, Willie Knierim and Chris Grando.
ASU controlled the shot counter and offensive zone time, and were off to a solid start.
“They deserved it,” said head coach Greg Powers of the victory. “For everything that we went through and all of the insane adversity that we fought, to finish for the guys like Dom that aren’t coming back, it feels really good to go out that way and we’re thrilled with that game.”
In the second period, freshman forward Matthew Kopperud followed up with another goal on a quick wrist shot from the slot that beat Ohio State backup netminder Evan Moyse, then Benji Eckerle slipped home his second goal in as many games to put icing on the cake in the third period.
That would be all the cushion that ASU needed to close out the rest of Friday’s second game. Powers was proud of how his group bounced back after a tough one the night prior.
In net, Cole Brady also recorded his first career shutout, making 41 saves to help earn the victory. After an up and down season, Brady rounded out the year strong, collecting solid starts and getting the nod in net in each of the last six contests.
“It’s been a long season and we took on something that a lot of people just didn’t think was possible and gave ourself a challenge,” Brady said. “We earned everything we got this season and we worked as hard as we could. Going into tonight, we knew it was the last one so we just wanted to leave everything on the table like we did all year.”
Remarkably, ASU only had one COVID-19 scare during its all-road trip. The only two games that were canceled on the schedule were due to an outbreak at Penn State.
For much of the senior class, there is a lot to be proud of, including for forward Dom Garcia, who was part of the heart and soul of Powers “Be The Tradition” mantra over the last few seasons. He put his final thoughts out after playing in his last game in maroon and gold.
“I don’t think any year was particularly easy,” Garcia said. “I think each year of my career here we’ve had something to struggle with whether it be being a new program or once we became a tournament team, we had to fight to live up to all the hate and the doubters and things like that and prove them wrong. With each year I feel we’ve had a new adversity and I think this is just another one. It really just goes back to the type of locker room we have. We just don’t make excuses. I think ultimately that’s what I’ll look back on.”
In one of the most challenging college hockey seasons, ASU finished with seven wins in 2020. There will be many things to address and areas to improve going into the offseason, but there’s a young nucleus to build around in Tempe over the next few years.
The core will look to grow and come back even stronger going into next season with actual home games to be played at Oceanside Arena.
“Bigger, stronger, faster. That’s the name of the game and we played an all-road season with so much fatigue, travel, and hotel nights,” Powers said. “...We’ve got to get bigger, faster, stronger and not accept losing more than we win. That’s not how we built this and that’s not our culture. At the end of the day, I think this is a chapter in our story that we’re going to look back on and be proud of.”