ASU hockey used an offensive explosion at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night to win 7-3 over Northern Michigan in the first round of the inaugural 2018 Ice Vegas Invitational.
The Sun Devils (5-12-4) set a new program record for goals scored in a game after lighting the lamp seven times. ASU scored three goals in the first seven minutes of the game and poured on four more scores in the third period to beat the Wildcats (11-10-2).
“It was a great win for our program over a really good team,” ASU coach Greg Powers said. “It translated tonight. I honestly think we played better last Saturday than we did tonight, but when you can get a couple power-play goals like we did tonight, that’s what happens. We had good, solid goaltending. The guys were committed to finishing tonight.”
After much struggle on special teams this season, ASU broke through twice on the power play Friday night. One of sophomore forward Anthony Croston’s two redirect goals in the first period came with the man advantage.
The Sun Devils led 3-1 going into the third period and began the final 20 minutes with much of a 5-on-3 man advantage remaining. With just one second left in the opportunity, redshirt junior Louie Rowe scored for the first time since Oct. 6 against UMass and it ignited another spark in the ASU offense.
“It all started with that big goal by Louie,” Powers said, “Our first unit goes out on almost a full two-minute 5-on-3 and they didn’t do so well. You could feel them start to get confidence and momentum, and some big shot blocks. We put our two’s out there for about 15 seconds of 5-on-3, and they popped one. That was huge. That is what winning is all about – production and execution top to bottom in your lineup. We had that tonight.”
The captains Dylan Hollman, Rowe and Croston combined for five points against Northern Michigan.
The closest Northern Michigan came to ASU was late in the second. James Vermeulen fired a shot that found its way through traffic to cut the deficit to 3-1. The Wildcats scored two more goals in the third period but it did not compete with ASU’s four.
Graduate Gage Hough scored two times in three minutes in the final frame for his first and second goal of his Sun Devil career. Sophomore defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk recorded three points (one goal, two assists) to help in the win.
Sophomore goaltender Joey Daccord kept up his stellar play with 40 saves on the night. Daccord has recorded at least 30 saves in 10 of his last 11 games played.
The Sun Devils advance to their first tournament championship game as a Division I program and will battle Michigan Tech Saturday at 9:30 p.m. MT.