ASU Hockey: Devils clinch first 20-win season in program history

ASU hockey defeated American International 4-1 Friday as Johnny Walker scored his nation-leading 23rd goal to secure the program’s first 20-win season.

Arizona State hockey clinched their first 20-win season in school history Friday night, defeating American International 4-1 in the first leg of a two-game series.

The Sun Devils (20-10-1) rode strong performances from freshmen Demetrios Koumontzis and Joshua Maniscalco against the speedy Yellow Jackets (17-13-1).

“It’s a great milestone for our program. That’s what I told the guys,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “A bit of an ugly win. They came out and they punched us right in our mouth.”

It took the Sun Devils, who are currently ranked No. 9 by the USCHO’s PairWise rankings, nearly two periods to pull ahead of an aggressive American International team.

During a brief period of 4-on-4 hockey, Koumontzis and Maniscalco found themselves in a 2-on-0 situation with American International’s Zackarias Skog.

Maniscalco eventually fed Koumontzis in front of the net for an easy goal that put the Sun Devils up 2-1 with 3:12 left in the second period.

“I saw that he kind of had a step on me with a little more speed, so I wanted to give it to him first. Then [Maniscalco] kind of faked the goalie and it was a beautiful pass. It was a tap-in, it was easy. I’ll take it whenever I can get it,” Koumontzis said.

When Jacob Wilson’s stint in the penalty box came to an end, Arizona State had well over half of their power play left from a Ryan Polin hooking call.

Sophomore defenseman Max Balinson put a shot on Skog from the goaltender’s left. The junior goaltender redirected the puck to his right, where Maniscalco dove headfirst to flip it into the back of the net.

“Right before that, coach [Alex] Hicks kind of got on us in the locker room for not competing for pucks,” Maniscaclo said.

The follow-up to Koumontzis’s goal gave the Sun Devils a two-goal cushion heading into the third frame.

No one scored in the third until Dylan Hollman added an empty-net goal with six seconds remaining.

Before their strong second period, Arizona State could not find breathing room. The Sun Devils came out of the gates very slow, and the Yellow Jackets capitalized on their opportunities early.

American International jumped to a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the game when junior forward Joel Kocur was all alone and beat standout goaltender Joey Daccord. However, Johnny Walker netted his nation-leading 23rd goal of the season on an ASU power play to tie it up just over two minutes later.

“There’s not going to be a situation that we’ve been in, or we’re going to be in the rest of the year, that we haven’t already been in,” Powers said. “It was not the start we wanted, but there was no panic. It was still positive and we got it right back.”

The Sun Devils and Yellow Jackets square off again Saturday night. The puck is scheduled to drop in Oceanside Ice Arena at 7:05 p.m. MST.

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