TEMPE, Ariz. -- Friday night saw a friendly clash of the past and future of hockey in the state of Arizona, but the real winners were some special Valley children and their families.
The Arizona State Sun Devil hockey team is coming off their semester break still undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the ACHA standings, and they head into the homestretch of the regular season with national title hopes. Having not played in nearly a month, they were looking to shake off some rust and do some good for the community at the same time.
On Friday night, the team hit the ice at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe where they hosted a squad comprised of former Phoenix Coyotes players and other NHL veterans, led by current Coyotes' color analyst Tyson Nash.
In the age old battle of youth versus experience, the former professionals came out on top 9-5, but the most important part was the evening was the donation of all of the proceeds from the game to benefit Sparky's KidZ, the ASU team's charity that helps out Valley children, and their families, who are battling cancer.
"It was a ton of fun," Nash said after the game. "Just to get out with the alumni for a great cause against this great ASU team was a ton of fun out there. A lot of laughs."
"That was fun. It was good for our guys to see what smart hockey can do," said ASU head coach Greg Powers. "Those guys are all ex-pros. They played at the highest level. They're still smart and still good hockey players. That was fun. We're glad we got to get out on the ice with them, and our guys can take a lot from it."
As for the game, it was a tightly contested affair through the first of two 25-minute halves. The elder Coyotes, while obviously not in the same physical condition as the Sun Devils 20 and 30 years younger, showed off their finely honed fundamental in dominating the flow early on.
Greg Adams, who scored 38 of his 355 NHL goals with the Coyotes during the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 seasons, scored the game's first goal four minutes into the action on a one-timer that got by ASU goalie Robert Levin.
ASU answered back just 26 seconds later, when Danny McAuliffe, fresh off of his appearnace captaining Team USA at the World University games, beat goalie Jamie Ram with a backhander on a breakaway.
Both goalies then took control of the game, and made several key saves until Mike Vukonich beat Levin five-hole later in the half to send the Coyotes into the intermission up 2-1.
At the start of the second half, the night's main attraction gave the fans what they wanted to see.
Nash gained possession and sped his way into a breakaway, where he buried the puck past new ASU goalie Joe D'Elia.
"I wanted to, bad," Nash said of scoring a goal in tonight's game. "In the last alumni game, I embarrassed my kids. They were chirping me pretty good at the dinner table as we were shoveling our supper down before ths game. I knew I had to put a little bit of a performance on, at least."
A Ryan Ostertag goal four minutes after Nash's tally would close the ASU deficit to 3-2, but then the Coyote floodgates would open.
Alex Hicks—with 25 goals in 258 NHL goals—would tally a hat trick on D'Elia over a brief span that, along with another Adams' goal, put the game out of reach for the young Sun Devils. Joe Dusbabeck and Craig Reichert added goals later in the half for the "old timers", closing the book on a rough night for D'Elia.
Jordan Young, Chris Blessing and Kale Dolinski scored late goals for ASU that closed the gap to the final margin.
Despite the score, Nash and the rest of the former pros were impressed by the talent level of their collegiate counterparts.
"I was very, very impressed. I caught a couple of their games over the last couple of years," said Nash. "I was nervous, I have to be honest, to see if we could keep up with these guys. I knew they were taking it easy on us, no question, because I've seen them at real speed. There's a ton of talent on that team. They have two really good goalies. A lot of skill and a lot of speed. I think the future is bright for them."
With a great time had by all and much needed funds raised for children in need, this could be the start of a great hockey relationship in Arizona.
"I'm sure they'll be a rematch in the near future, hopefully," said Nash. "We're trying to set that up for Jobing.com Arena."
If and when that rematch happens, the Sun Devils will be ready.
"Anytime they want to play, we'll play," said Powers.