TEMPE, Ariz. -- The pieces were in place for a stumble.
Arizona State was riding high after Thursday's much-hyped victory over No. 1 ranked and defending national champion Minot State, putting them in prime position for a letdown. The Sun Devils had struggled with playing down to "lesser" teams this year, most notably victories over NAU and Colorado.
To heighten the danger, ASU was without a few key players, principally captain and leading goal scorer Colin Hekle, due to illness.
Facing them was Williston State, the defending NJCAA national champions, that had stunned the college hockey world last week when they upset Minot State in a shootout.
Yet despite the hurdles in front of them, ASU showed why they are undefeated and regarded as the ACHA's deepest team, despite an ending taken straight from Slap Shot.
Led by three freshmen, sharp special teams play, and the goaltending of senior Joe D'Elia, the Sun Devils topped the Tetons 4-0 and improved to 18-0-0 on the year. ASU's hot start matched the program's best start ever, done by last year's team.
This physical affair began with the Tetons taking control in the early minutes, before the Sun Devils managed to recover.
ASU finally broke the stalemate thanks to a Teton roughing penalty. Halfway through the ensuing power play, Kale Dolinski found a wide open Ryan Ostertag off to goalie WSC goalie Tyler Ampe's stickside. The pass was on target, and Ostertag one-timed it in for the period's only goal.
The Sun Devils would strike twice more in the second period.
While on the second ASU power play of the game, ASU forward Eric Rivard fired a shot from the right faceoff circle that was saved by Ampe. However, the rebound went straight to an open Drew Newmeyer to the left, and he easily slapped the puck in for his first goal as a sun Devil.
Late in the period, ASU forward Sean Murphy took the Burkemper pass in the high slot and rifled a hard wrister high over Ampe to send the game into the third period with the Sun Devils leading 3-0. Murphy was the third freshman on the night to score for ASU.
After killing the remaining Williston State power play early in the third period, ASU padded their lead, when Liam Norris backhanded in his own rebound to make it 4-0.
The rest of the period got increasingly chippy, with each team taking a number of penalties. It culminated in a series of fights in which ASU's Brian McGinty and Williston State's Karson Kuntz got ejected for fighting. In total, the two teams combined for 95 penalty minutes in the period.
D'Elia made 30 saves to improve to 8-0-0 on the year and notched his second shutout of the year, while Ampe took the loss after stopping 28 Sun Devil shots.
The teams will conclude the series on Saturday night, with a 7:30 start time.
1st - ASU, 7:06: Ostertag (3), assists Dolinski, Murphy Power Play
2nd - ASU, 15:09: Newmeyer (1), assists Rivard, McAuliffe Power Play
2nd - ASU, 2:21: Murphy (9), assists Burkemper, Newmeyer
3rd - ASU, 19:12: Norris (6), assist Dolinski