TEMPE, Ariz.— The Arizona State men’s ice hockey program (2-0-0) entered two national polls Monday, following a series sweep of No. 15/13 Merrimack College in Mullet Arena to begin the season.
This is the second time in program history that the Sun Devils have been ranked inside the top 20, when ASU came in at No. 20 in the USCHO.com poll in 2020.
An overtime goal from senior forward Matthew Kopperud on Friday ignited Mullet Arena for the first time this season. The goalless battle carried into the overtime period after each goaltender kept the scoreboard blank with over 55 saves between the two in regulation. ASU’s junior goaltender T.J. Semptimphelter had 31 saves in the game that saw the Sun Devil offense struggle at times.
“He’s the backbone,” Sun Devil head coach Gregg Powers said. “When you’re struggling and you have him back there to bail you out til you get it together, it’s a good feeling and he did that tonight.”
Just two minutes and 33 seconds into the overtime period, Kopperud batted in a rebound to break the seal and send the Sun Devils home victorious in the home opener.
On Saturday, the Arizona State scored three unanswered goals in the third period to overcome a 2-1 deficit, winning the game 4-2.
A power-play goal from senior forward Lukas Sillinger tied the game at two a piece with 8:20 left in the third period. Sillinger skated in his 100th collegiate game Saturday afternoon after playing two years at Bemidji State and netted his 10th goal as a Sun Devil in doing so.
With under two minutes to go in regulation, Merrimack took a too many men on the ice penalty to set up the ASU offense in prime position to win the game.
Kopperud, who played hero the night before in overtime, blasted a shot from just above the high slot that beat the Warriors’ goaltender blocker side, sending Mullet Arena into chaos.
His second goal in as many games led to the Sun Devils 2-0 start to the year, the second 2-0 start to an ASU hockey season since 2018 when ASU was still an ACHA program.
With 0:22 left in the third, senior forward Alex Young buried the empty-netter, essentially thrusting the Sun Devils into the national conversation amongst ranked men’s ice hockey programs. A series sweep against a 2022 NCAA D1 Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament qualifying team is a massive step in the right direction, but Powers and the Sun Devils believe they are already capable of playing at the highest level in college hockey.
“We’re going to be a tough team to beat all year, and I think it just says that we’re a really good team and we’re here to make it a long way,” said Kopperud.
Two thrilling wins to open the regular season for the Sun Devils gave them a firm spot amongst college hockey’s best despite being the second year as an NCAA sanctioned team.
The Sun Devils will continue their exciting start to the season at 7:00 p.m. MST on Oct. 20 against Northern Michigan at Mullet Arena.