NEWARK, Del. -- From the moment the buzzer sounded to signal Arizona State's stunning loss in last season's semifinal loss, the mantra around the program has been "national championship or bust".
Over the course of this past year, ASU put together the finest season in program history. They were ranked atop the ACHA polls for most of the year, and entered this year's ACHA National Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.
They breezed their way through the first two rounds before having to put together a third period rally on Monday night to top Stony Brook. That set up Tuesday's showdown against No. 3 Robert Morris to decide on which side of the yearlong rallying cry ASU would end up.
Thanks to the efforts of some fabulous freshmen, Arizona State got their answer.
The Sun Devils are national champions.
Freshman forward Ryan Ostertag scored two goals to give ASU a lead they would never relinquish, as they held off a furious Robert Morris rally to win 3-1 and take ownership of the Murdoch Cup.
With Levin and RMU goalie Anthony Petrak, the title game figured to be a low-scoring, defensive affair and it lived up to that.
Throughout the first three rounds of the tournament, neither ASU nor Robert Morris had allowed a first period goal, and that trend stayed intact. The Sun Devils did have an edge in possession, outshooting the Eagles 17-10, but Petrak was equal to every shot ASU fired his way.
The second period was on a similar course through the first eight minutes of play, until the present and future of ASU hockey teamed up.
Senior Kale Dolinski, the ACHA's leading scorer during the regular season, gained possession behind the RMU net and found a streaking Ostertag in the slot. The one-timer was true, and ASU took a 1-0 lead.
That connection was not done.
Later in the period, Dolinski again found Ostertag in the Eagle zone. Ostertag's shot went wide, but the rebound off of the endboards fortuitously found Ostertag's blade in front of the net and he notched his second goal of the game.
With last year's lesson in mind, the Sun Devils did not let up in the final period.
ASU came out strong, clamping down defensively and denying RMU any sustained offensive attacks. However, the Eagles did manage some quality bursts, and eventually, it paid off.
As the clock hit the four-minute mark, freshman defenseman Chayce Coenen picked up a loose puck in front of Levin and shot it five-hole to cut the lead in half and set up a thrilling finish.
Robert Morris continued to press the attack, and forced Levin into a few difficult saves. However, after RMU pulled Petrak to the extra attacker, ASU managed to put in the dagger. Senior Troy Scott gained possession in the neutral zone and found the back of the empty net to seal the game and a championship.
ASU goalie Robert Levin was terrific in net, shutting down the Eagles on his way to winning the tournament MVP award. He stopped 92 of the 96 shots he faced in the tournament.
Ostertag led the team in tournament play with four goals, and tied with David Jantzie, Scott, and Dolinski with five points in the four games.
The victory sends out the greatest senior class in program history—captain Colin Hekle, Danny McAuliffe, David Jantzie, Troy Scott, Brian McGinty, Brett Prechel, and Joe D'Elia—out the only way this team would allow: as champions.