ASU rallies from late deficit, advances to ACHA national championship game

ASU rallies from late deficit, advances to ACHA national championship game

Credit: Hekle Photo Images

Faiz Khan scored the tying goal in the third period.


by Brad Denny

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 5:20 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 10 at 7:39 PM

NEWARK, Del. -- For a while, it appeared that it would all be for naught.

Thirty-four regular season wins. The No. 1 ranking in the polls. The top seed in the ACHA National Tournament. Another run to the Final Four.

After waltzing through the first two rounds of the tournament, Arizona State found themselves in an unfamiliar position in their semifinal matchup against No. 5 Stony Brook: trailing.

After allowing three Seawolves' goals in the second period to fall behind 3-2—the first goals the Sun Devils have allowed in the tournament—ASU rallied. Faiz Khan tied the game midway through the third period, and senior David Jantzie scored the game winner (watch it here) with just over four minutes left in the game.

The Sun Devils now advance to the ACHA national championship game for the first time in program history, where they will face third-ranked Robert Morris, who defeated No. 2 Oklahoma on Monday night.

Through the first two rounds, ASU had outscored their tournament opponents by a combined 9-0, and there appeared to be no cracks in the Sun Devil defense during Monday's first period. The six shots that did get through the defense were all turned away by ASU freshman goalie Robert Levin.

Levin's counterpart, Brendan Jones, was nearly as solid, but he did make one critical error. Coming out of the net, he mishandled the puck and the resulting bounce found the stickblade of ASU's Danny McAuliffe, who buried his second goal of the tournament to give the Sun Devils a 1-0 lead they took into the first intermission.

After keeping the opposition out of the net for the first 155 minutes and 19 seconds of the tournament, Levin finally cracked late in the second period. A loose puck in front of the ASU net was gathered and popped in over his glove by SBU's Dan Cassano.

However, the game did not remain tied for long.

Just 30 seconds later, ASU's Kale Dolinski found Ryan Ostertag with a sharp pass into the slot, and Ostertag beat Jones to reclaim the lead. The shootout was on.

Shortly thereafter, a Brett Blomgren turnover in the Sun Devil zone gave SBU's J.T. Hall a scoring chance that he converted, tying the game once again at two. It seemed that these two titans would head to the final period all tied up, but it was not to be.

A defensive breakdown on the Sun Devil blueline allowed Stony Brook's Vincent Lopes to streak free to center ice, and an accurate outlet pass gave him a breakaway. His slapshot was true, and the goal with 15.9 seconds left in the period put ASU behind for the first time in the tournament.

The Seawolf momentum continued into the third period, as they controlled the action throughout the opening minutes of the final frame. ASU's season was on the brink.

Captain Canada to the rescue.

With just under 15 minutes left in regulation, ASU senior captain Colin Hekle fired a slapshot into Jones, but the puck sprung free. Hekle gathered his own rebound, and took the puck behind the Stony Brook net. Showing incredible patience, he waited until linemate Faiz Khan worked his way to the slot, and both the pass and shot were on target to tie the game.

As the clock ticked down, the intensity ramped up and both sides looked for a hero. Just as they did in last night's quarterfinal win over defending national champion Minot State, the Sun Devils' fourth line answered the call.

Jantzie gained the offensive zone and was heading towards the net when he was pushed wide, sending the puck to the end boards. Linemate Troy Scott, who had two goals including the game-winner on Sunday, gained possession and found Jantzie standing off the near post. Jantzie's one-timer beat Jones five-hole to give the Sun Devils a 4-3 lead with just 4:02 left.

This time, they held on.

Stony Brook pushed all they could, but only generated one quality chance on Levin over the final four minutes, and in that case the puck rolled just wide. ASU managed to hold the edge in possession, and watched as the final seconds ticked away.

Despite allowing a season-high three goals, Levin made 29 saves to pick up the win.

ASU will play for the ACHA national championship on Tuesday night, with the puck dropping at 4 p.m. Arizona time/7 p.m. EST.