TEMPE – The No. 16 ranked Arizona State men’s ice hockey (7-2-1) team split the series against No. 2 Denver (7-2-1) with a 6-5 overtime win on Friday and a regulation 8-4 loss on Saturday.
With the 1-1 record against the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, the Sun Devils moved up to No. 14 in the USCHO Men’s Division I Ice Hockey rankings.
Friday: Arizona State 6, Denver 5 – OT
In the first game of the two game series, the Sun Devils veteran first line led the charge with five goals in the game.
With 2:55 into overtime, the captain graduate senior Tyler Gratton received the pass on a three on two rush for the Devils and buried a wrist shot to send the Sun Devils home with a win. This ties last year’s win over No. 2 Minnesota in overtime for the highest ranked win for ASU hockey.
Senior forwards Lukas Sillinger, Ty Jackson and Dylan Jackson played the most important hockey of the season with ASU facing its toughest opponent thus far.
“They saved it for when we needed it the most,” head coach Greg Powers said. “They were the best line tonight on the ice, it wasn’t even close.”
Dylan Jackson completed the hat trick, his second of his career, to help the Devils force overtime. Ty Jackson had one goal and two assists to complete his three-point night. Sillinger contributed with one goal and two assists as well. On the season, the first line forwards have amounted for 10 goals, 12 assists for 22 points. Powers has been pleased by their play all season and knows how dangerous that first line forwards can be for ASU.
“When they play the right way, they are incredibly dangerous,” Powers said.
Junior goaltender TJ Semptimphelter made 35 saves on the night and stood tall when Arizona State needed him most.
Saturday: Arizona State 4, Denver 8
In the second game in the series, Denver took control with a strong second period that saw the Pioneers overcome a 3-0 deficit. Denver scored four goals in the second, two of which came while on the power play. With Denver committing six penalties, ASU could not take advantage of the extra skater on many occasions, only going 2-6 on the power play.
After one period of play, the Sun Devils led 2-0, with goals from Sillinger and senior defenseman Tim Lovell.
Early in the second period, it was the Penn State graduate Gratton who netted the third goal to extend the lead to three.
At this point of the game, Arizona State had firm control of the game, even outshooting the No. 2 ranked team in the nation by eight shots. But at the 6:59 mark in the second, Denver gained momentum with a goal deflected in front to begin the comeback.
A goal by freshman forward Miko Matikka and two goals by Junior forward Jack Devine stunned the sell-out crowd inside Mullett Arena on Saturday. A power play goal with two minutes remaining in the second period sucked the life out of Arizona State and proved Denver’s championship pedigree.
In the third, a goal early in the period for Denver hammered home four straight unanswered goals, proving to be too much for the Sun Devils to answer. Two empty net goals and one before the horn ended ASU’s home winning streak and made the game seem more out of hand than what it may have been.
“It stings because of the nature of how we lost, blowing a three goal lead,” said Powers. “It’s our first regulation loss in our first 10 games, if you would have told me at the start of the season ‘you’re 7-2-1 after 10, you split with Denver, you have one loss in regulation’, you take it all day.”
Powers and the Sun Devils will look to build upon the strong start to the season with another home series against Alaska Anchorage. Friday’s puck drop will be at 7 p.m. at Mullett Arena with Saturday’s game slated for 5 p.m.