Third period surge leads No. 1 ASU over No. 2 UCO 8-5

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ASU goalie Robert Levin By Brad Denny ASU goalie Robert Levin By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- In a battle between the ACHA's top two teams, No. 1 Arizona State left no doubt that the road to the national championship still goes through them.

The Sun Devils rallied to overcome a third period deficit to knock off No. 2 Central Oklahoma 8-5 on Saturday night to earn the series sweep. Michael Cummings notched the first hat trick of his Sun Devil career, with his third goal of the night proving to be the game winner. 

"The net just seemed a little bit bigger tonight," Cummings said. "Everything was going in."

Saturday's battle between ACHA powerhouses proved to be an entertaining back-and-forth affair. ASU overcame problems on special teams and in goal that squandered a 4-2 lead, but they dominated the final 20 minutes to earn another quality win.

"They (UCO) are a good team. We were down a goal to No. 2, but we just swept them at home, so we'll take it," said ASU head coach Greg Powers.

The Bronchos struck early in the first period, as Matt Prigge redirected a shot past ASU goalie Robert Levin's outstretched right pad. ASU was able to respond a few minutes later, thanks to a pair of UCO penalties that gave ASU a 4-on-3 power play. Defenseman Ed McGovern took possession on the right point and wristed home a goal.

"Tonight's goal was simple. Get a greasy one, get it to the net," McGovern said. "Jordy (Jordan Young) gave me a sweet pass, I used the D-man as a screen, and I found the back of the net."

Three minutes later, Cummings struck for his first of the night, when a UCO defender whiffed on a clearing attempt of a Kyle Bowen shot. However, UCO managed to tie the game just before the first intermission, when Trevor Yee scored his 16th of the year, thanks to a screen in front of Levin.

ASU came out firing in the second period, as Chris Burkemper and Cummings scored just 59 seconds apart to give the Sun Devils a 4-2 edge.

With the lead, ASU immediately began taking bad penalties, and UCO's Travis Wellman scored on the power play just 26 seconds after Cummings' tally. Another Sun Devil penalty five minutes later gave the Bronchos their second power play goal of the period, this time by Rylan Duley.

As time dwindled down in the period, ASU looked to regain momentum with a power play of their own. Unfortunately for them, UCO generated a 2-on-1 breakout, and Brandon Formosa buried the chance past Levin for the stunning 5-4 lead.

Despite the turn of events in their favor, ASU never lost confidence.

"I didn't feel like we earned a two-goal lead when we went up 4-2," said Powers. "To me, it didn't surprise me that it (UCO's comeback) happened. That's a team that never goes away. We didn't waver. In the locker room, we kept things positive." 

That positivity paid immediate dividends.

Recent transfer David Norris made his presence felt for ASU, as he notched the tying goal just 13 seconds into the third period. Cummings wrister home his third goal just three minutes later as ASU continued to push the tempo against the Bronchos.

"I had a talk with Coach, and he just said to keep it simple," Cummings said of his success. "I tried doing that tonight, and it started on breakouts. All three goals came on breakouts. We nailed those down."

Cummings offensive explosion was something of a surprise to his coach, who had expected a different kind of contribution from the fourth liner.

"With Mike, we told him specifically before the game that his job was to not score goals," Powers said. "I'm not going to complain when he does. It's a bonus. When he's listed on the fourth line, his job is to get pucks out, get pucks deep, and get pucks on net. He's got such a hard, heavy shot. When you look at all three of his goals, all he does is gain entry, protect the puck with his big body, and he's got a laser. When there is a little bit of traffic in front of the goalie, and he let's his shot go, good things are going to happen."

ASU's Sean Murphy made sure to quash any UCO notions of a comeback, as the speedy winger notched two goals in a 19-second span with just under four minutes left to ice the game.

The eight goals helped to compensate for an off-night for Levin. The five goals surrendered were the most in his ASU career, but his 22-save effort was good enough for the win. For Powers, that's all that matters.

"I don't think he played that well," said Powers of Levin. "Everybody is allowed nights off, but the thing I love about him is that the only thing he cares about is the final score. If it's 8-7, 9-10, as long as we win, that's all he cares about. The kid helps us win games." 

Levin improved to 19-3 on the year, while UCO netminder Bretton Patchett fell to 9-2.

ASU returns to action next Friday and Saturday when they hit the road to Missouri for a two-game series against No. 8 Lindenwood.

Three Stars

1) Michael Cummings, ASU: hat trick

2) Sean Murphy, ASU: two goals

3) Ed McGovern, ASU: goal, assist

Scoring Summary

1st, UCO - 14:14: Prigge (4), unassisted

1st, ASU - 9:04: McGovern (9), assist Young Power Play

1st, ASU - 6:40: Cummings (9), assist Bowen

1st, UCO - 1:19: Yee (16), unassisted

2nd, ASU - 17:30: Burkemper (7), assist McGovern

2nd, ASU - 16:31: Cummings (10), assist Newmeyer

2nd, UCO - 16:05: Wellman (10), assist Wyatt Power Play

2nd, UCO - 11:09: Duley (15), assist Wellman Power Play

2nd, UCO - 2:28: Formosa (14) , assist Harlet Shorthanded

3rd, ASU - 19:47: D. Norris (2), assists Belonger, Khan, Mangone

3rd, ASU - 16:43: Cummings (11), assist Mailey

3rd, ASU - 3:44: Murphy (13), assist Norris

3rd, ASU - 3:25: Murphy (14), assist Rivard