ASU Hockey: Sun Devils tie with Minnesota State after late-game heroics from Johnny Walker

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 08: Arizona State Sun Devils mascot "Sparky the Sun Devil " performs during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Sun Devil Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 08: Arizona State Sun Devils mascot "Sparky the Sun Devil " performs during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Sun Devil Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

ASU hockey achieved a 2-2 tie against No. 3 Minnesota State after a late goal from Johnny Walker in regulation and eventually winning a shootout with help from Max Balinson in the Desert Hockey Classic consolation game.

With just over eight minutes left in the third period, No. 15 Arizona State thought it scored the game-tying goal. Junior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk popped in a rebound chance, but after further review, the score was waived off and ASU had to watch the point get taken off the board.

“We were pissed off because it should’ve been a goal,” ASU coach Greg Powers said postgame. “That’s a good goal and I don’t care what anybody says. But it pissed off our guys and they drove forward.”

Time continued to dwindle away and it seemed the Sun Devils were going to finish this year’s Desert Hockey Classic empty-handed after a 3-0 drubbing from Clarkson, who went on to win the championship game on Saturday, the night before. Then, ASU goaltender Joey Daccord skated off with just over a minute to give his team an extra attacker for one last push.

The sixth man was sophomore Johnny Walker. With 29 seconds left, Walker had a rebound off a shot from Brett Gruber fall right onto his stick at the backdoor and he made no mistake in burying his 18th NCAA-leading goal of the season to tie the game, 2-2.

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“This group deals with adversity and has great bounce-back, and we proved that tonight,” Walker said. “There was no doubt in the locker room that we left a little on the table last night, and we went out and played the way that we should and that we can and got the result that we wanted.”

Regulation time ended and then neither team found the back of the net in overtime. Due to NCAA rules, the game goes down as a tie on the record but the outcome would morally be determined with a shootout.

After four scoreless rounds, Max Balinson came up clutch for the Sun Devils in just his third time dressing all season. The sophomore skated forward and ripped a shot over the glove of Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay, the only tally of the shootout to give ASU the win in principle.

“He’s very good with the puck and we needed to shoot it,” Powers said. “The guys were getting too cute and fancy and I knew Bali (Balinson) was gonna let it go and he put it in.”

Balinson noted after the game that he knew he was going to shoot instead of trying to make a flashy move.

ASU broke the ice in the first period as Walker closed in on the right side of the slot before making a quick pass to freshman Jordan Sandhu who tapped the puck into the net on the backside. Sandhu, after being moved to left wing for Saturday, registered his second goal of the season.

“Well, we tell him he needs to pass it more, right,” Powers joked about Walker’s assist. “He doesn’t like giving it, so I think we were riding him for the last couple of weeks. But he can make plays. Johnny can make plays and he proved it with that one.”

However, the Mavericks were no slouch and responded in the second period to take the lead. Minnesota State (14-5-1) applied pressure for most of the middle frame and outshot the Sun Devils, 15-4.

Minnesota State junior Edwin Hookenson took his time to find sophomore Walker Duehr at the backdoor for a quick tap-in score. Then, in the final minute of the second frame, sophomore Dallas Gerads wheeled his way around the ASU defense and buried the puck past ASU goaltender Joey Daccord to make it 2-1.

Walker’s heroic effort then came late in the third. The Phoenix-native has scored three crunch-time goals this season, the first two coming in overtimes against Penn State and Harvard back in November.

The Sun Devils’ tie with No. 3 Minnesota State was an important one in their push for an NCAA Tournament bid. ASU fell from No. 9 to No. 11 in the PairWise rankings, the number-crunching system to determine who’s in the Frozen Four, but climbed back up a spot to No. 10 after Saturday night’s contest.

ASU is now 14-7-1 on the season in a historic effort up to this point.

“When I was recruited here, Greg Powers always said, ‘Be the tradition,’ and we’re not messing around,” Balinson said. “We’re a program to be reckoned with now.”

ASU Hockey: Sun Devils dominated by Clarkson on special teams. dark. Next

The Sun Devils will have to take on a challenging stretch to end the regular season that includes four road trips. The new year brings in Boston College for a two-game series on Jan. 4-5 with Friday’s game in Tempe and Saturday’s match-up going back to Gila River Arena in Glendale.

All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.