Despite Johnny Walker’s three-point performance, ASU hockey dropped the second game of the series with Michigan Tech in a penalty-filled 5-3 loss at MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, Michigan.
Friday night tossed up a low-scoring, down-to-the-wire finish. On Saturday night, the offenses turned up the heat as the Sun Devils (8-19-15) and Huskies (16-14-5) combined for eight goals, 20 points, and 68 shots on goal.
Although the game manifested into an offensive onslaught, both teams got off to a slow start. For the first 19 minutes of play, the scoreboard remained empty.
However, with 16 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Brinson Pasichnuk perfectly redirected his eighth goal of the season to give ASU a 1-0 lead.
With a tremendous pass from David Norris from the half wall, a wide-open Paschinuk gave the Sun Devils a confidence booster heading into the first intermission.
The night for the refs was penalty-filled as they handed out 24 infractions and a total of 59 penalties.
Entering the evening with the 22nd best penalty kill, the Sun Devils battled, but took a heavy hit. The Huskies took advantage of the man-advantage in the second frame thanks to two key big 5-on-3 tallies.
Just under three minutes into the second period, MTU’s point-leading defenseman Mark Auk fired a shot that found its way through traffic for his fifth power play goal of the year. The game knotted up at one.
The Huskies struck again with another two-man-advantage. Defenseman Joel L’Esperance sneaked past the Sun Devil blue line and buried an easy breakaway for MTU’s first lead of the night.
With an unlucky bounce off ASU captain Dylan Hollman’s skate, the Huskies added another goal extending their lead to 3-1.
Things were not going in favor for the Sun Devil, however red-hot Johnny Walker did not give up. With time expiring to close out the second period, Walker whistled the puck by the Huskies goaltender to cut the deficit in half.
Walker was not done. Early into the final 20 minutes of play, Walker sniped his second goal of the game and extended his record-breaking total of most goals scored by a first-year Sun Devil to 13. Fans looked on in astonishment as the game deadlocked at three.
The Huskies and Sun Devils amped up the pressure. Both teams began to fore-check and force overwhelming hits with greater intensity.
With ASU seeking to earn its first road sweep of the season and MTU looking for revenge of the Ice Vegas Invitational Championship, the battle brewed into a heated rivalry between the two highly-energetic squads.
For the Sun Devils, costly miscues lead to their downfall. A bad turnover in ASU territory set up MTU with a nifty capitalization to take a 4-3 lead with over 13 minutes left in the third.
And to think the night could not have gone any worse, it did.
Just 14 seconds later, goaltender Joey Daccord scrambled behind his crease to play the puck, but a pass off the corner glass caromed right out in front of the net.
The Huskies pounced on the loose rebound and scored on the empty net to stretch out the lead to two goals.
ASU prepared to muscle out a late surge, but fell short of good looks and settled to split the series with Michigan Tech.
Joey Daccord had a rough outing, surrendering five goals on 45 shots attempted. At the other end of the ice, Huskies backup Devin Kero picked up his fifth win while making 20 saves on 23 shots on goal from the Sun Devils.
The Sun Devils six-game road trip wraps up as ASU heads out to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the final series of the season against the Michigan Wolverines on Feb. 23-24. Puck drop is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. MT.