@Arizona State 5, CORNELL 2 | @Arizona State 3, CORNELL 2
Welcome to the second half of the season. Obviously, these weren’t the results we anticipated when we left Ithaca to travel to Tempe, AZ.
I was concerned starting the second half because we had had only six practices as a team since December 4th. Like the rest of campus, we were hit with COVID and 12 guys were quarantined after Dec 15th. We were concerned with game details and player conditioning and those concerns were confirmed.
However, we actually came out strong in the first period of opening night at Arizona State. Freshman forward Justin Ertel scored his first collegiate goal midway (10:21) through the opening period. Sophomore forward Kyle Penney’s forecheck created a turnover that was picked up by Senior forward Brenden Locke who sent a crease-side feed to Ertel for the only goal scored in the first period.
Arizona State came out flying in the second period and took a 2-1 lead with goals at 7:22 (on a turnover) and 19:25. On the second goal, Freshman goaltender Joe Howe came way out of the net to play the puck at the top of circle but unfortunately played it right to an Arizona St. player who had an easy empty net goal sending us into the third period down, 2-1.
The Sun Devils increased their margin to 3-1 at 7:30 of the third period. With Howe pulled for an extra attacker with 1:24 left in the game, Freshman forward Ondrej Psenicka made it 3-2 with assists to Senior Max Andreev and Junior Matt Stienburg. Stienburg extended his points scoring mark to 11 straight games, which is the longest streak since the 1990-91 season when both Doug Derraugh and Ryan Hughes accomplished the feat. Arizona State put the game out of reach with two empty-net goals in the final 62 seconds. Howe made 23 saves, while the home team netminder stopped 31 shots. We were 0-for-2 on the power play and they were 0-for-1.
The second night the results were a bit better but we suffered our first back-to-back losses since Feb. 16 and 22, 2019. Despite out-shooting the Sun Devils in the first period, they took a 3-0 lead with goals at 1:43, 11:38 and 18:47. At that point, we replaced Senior goaltender Nate McDonald with Freshman Ian Shane for his collegiate debut.
Early in the second period, Brenden Locke narrowed the margin with a tally at 1:53. Sophomore defenseman Tim Rego brought the puck into the neutral zone, where Junior forwards Ben Tupker and Jack Malone set up Locke for a shot from near the top of the left faceoff circle that beat the goaltender on the glove side.
In the final period, Arizona State held a two-goal margin until Locke scored again at 2:05. Ertel started the scoring play with a pass to Locke along the end board near the left post. Locke sent a pass to Junior defenseman Travis Mitchell at the left point. Mitchell returned the favor with a pass to Locke near the top of the circle. The senior forward sidestepped a defender while moving toward the slot. His backhanded shot fooled the goaltender and slid through his legs into the back of the net. With these two goals, Locke increased his point total to eight over the last five games but we couldn’t get any closer and dropped the 3-2 decision.
McDonald made seven saves before giving way to Shane who stopped 23 shots in 39 minutes of action. For his efforts, Shane was named ECAC Goalie of the Week. The Arizona State goalie made 31 saves. We were 0-for-1 on the power play and the home team was 0-for-3.
Our challenging stretch of nine consecutive road games continues with a trip to the #5 North Dakota Fighting Hawks on January 7-8. If you are in area, we certainly can use your vocal support. North Dakota has a large following in its impressive 11,000-seat arena. We return East to play at Yale and Brown on January 14 and 15 and finally back home for a big weekend against Princeton and #2 Quinnipiac on January 21 and 22.