TEMPE, Ariz. -- No players? No problem for Arizona State.
Despite having nine key players suspended for the game, the Sun Devils, ranked No. 1 in the latest ACHA polls, crushed the sixth-ranked Delaware Blue Hens 7-2 on Thursday night. Fittingly, ASU had a season-high two shorthanded goals on the night in a dominating effort on both ends of the ice.
Playing with just 10 forwards and five defensemen, ASU jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the period, and used a three-goal spurt finish in the middle frame to put the Blue Hens away for good. Captain Colin Hekle had two goals, freshman Sean Murphy notched three points, and ACHA scoring leader Kale Dolinski added two more for the shorthanded, yet victorious Sun Devils.
Knowing a quick start was key, ASU struck early and often in what turned out to be an exceedingly physical affair.
Hekle struck first less than three minutes into the game, as he skated into the high slot and fired a furious wristshot that beat Blue Hen goalie Noble Tucker high to his glove side. Just 55 second later, Dolinski found Murphy open in front, and Murphy buried it for the 2-0 lead.
However, Delaware soon struck back. ASU defenseman Alex Temby's clearing attempt hit a referee, resulting in a 2-on-1 breakaway for the Blue Hens. That ended with Mark Zeszut's 11th goal of the year.
The furious pace bled over into very physical, and often illegal, play from both sides. After a five minute boarding major on Delaware, ASU took to the power play, that was soon made a 5-on-3 due to a quick Blue Hen minor. It didn't take long for ASU to convert, as Alex Temby's slapshot from the point found the back of the net and gave the Sun Devils a 3-1 lead that they would carry into the next period.
Once again, the Sun Devils started fast. Tommy Cooney scored his first career ASU goal when he beat Tucker five-hole off of a well executed give and go play.
The pace then settled down into a grinding, physical battle for most of the period. Each team successfully killed off power play chances, with both D'Elia and Tucker making important saves.
That stalemate ended with a fury late in the period as ASU's Patrick Yudez scored off a give and go with just under two minutes left. The backbreaker then happened with 22 seconds left in the frame with the Sun Devils on the penalty kill, when Dolinski scored shorthanded to make it a 6-1 edge.
Hekle's second goal came early in the third period, when he was left open in the slot while ASU was on the penalty kill, and he easily slapped in an accurate pass from Jared Levos from behind the UD net. Delaware managed to score their final goal after a rebound was left in front of the ASU net .
ASU forward Chris Blessing left the game during the third period after taking a knee-to-knee hit at center ice. While he was being helped off the ice, several Delaware players verbally taunted Blessing.
ASU goalie Joe D'Elia stopped 19 shots to earn the win to improve 4-0-0 on the year. Tucker took the loss for Delaware to fall to 3-1-0. The Sun Devils outshot Delaware 39-21.
Game two of this series will occur on Friday night, with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
1st - ASU, 17:12: Hekle (7) unassisted
1st - ASU 16:17: Murphy (6), assist Dolinski
1st - UD: 14:51: Zeszut (11), assist Voloninno
1st - ASU 10:46: Temby (2), assists Murphy, Prechel Power Play
2nd - ASU: 18:42: Cooney (1), assists Murphy, Levos
2nd - ASU: 1:53: Yudez (4), assists Holstrom, Levos
2nd - ASU: 0:22: Dolinski (8), assist Hekle Shorthanded
3rd - ASU: 16:06: Hekle (8), assist Levos Shorthanded
3rd - UD: 9:09: Voloninno (7) , assist Redgate