Arizona State ELITE dominates NAU's Ice Jacks, 5-1 on Prescott Valley Event Center ice PHOTO GALLERY and VIDEO
PRESCOTT VALLEY - The Arizona State University ELITE hockey team's offense may have been denied early, but once it capitalized midway through the game, there was no stopping the Sun Devils.
ASU scored three second-period goals and two more in the final minute of regulation to rout the host Northern Arizona University Ice Jacks, 5-1, in an American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II men's league clash Friday night, Jan. 22, at Prescott Valley Event Center.
Nearly two years after the defunct Central Hockey League's Arizona Sundogs suspended operations, hockey returned to PV Event Center to a nearly half-full arena with an enthusiastic crowd.
"It was fantastic," NAU goalie Seth Kollman said afterward. "So many fans cheering both ways. It was a close game for a while, but I loved it. It was a lot of fun."
ACHA D-II West District No. 4-ranked NAU and No. 1-rated ASU ELITE enjoyed their short stay here, despite the teams' distaste for one another. They will turn around and play again at 3 p.m. today, Jan. 23, in Tempe. Both squads are gunning for ACHA D-II national tournament berths in February.
But there's still more hockey to come here. ASU and NAU's ACHA D-III teams will clash at PV Event Center at 7:05 tonight, Jan. 23. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students.
On Friday, Sun Devils forward Austin Ehrlich, who scored two goals and added an assist, said there's no love lost between ASU and NAU on the ice. Although there weren't many penalties called, some hard hits were dispensed on both sides. ASU ELITE is now 4-1 overall against the Ice Jacks this season.
"I would say it's far from friendly," Ehrlich said of the in-state rivalry with NAU. "It's always fun playing them, and it's a good atmosphere, especially in front of a bunch of fans like this. Every single game is going to be a tough game for us, and luckily we came out on top tonight."
In the first period on Friday, Arizona State out-shot NAU a whopping 18-5, but couldn't get anything past stingy Ice Jacks goalie Kollman.
However, that all changed in a dominating second-period showing for the Sun Devils. Arizona State claimed a 3-0 lead on goals from Ehrlich as well as forwards Steven Casaceli and Ryan McNeely.
NAU coach Travis Johanson said ASU ELITE has a much deeper bench than his team, which has struggled a bit defensively minus two strong defensemen who graduated last off-season.
"We got complacent - got caught puck watchin' twice," Johanson said. "We left Seth hung out to dry there on two of them. It was a lapse there for 7, 8 minutes - sat back, and no intensity."
The Sun Devils (22-2-2 overall, winners of 13 straight games) grabbed a 1-0 edge with 16 minutes and 42 seconds left in the second period when Ehrlich scored on the first of two assists from starting forward Wilson Housley.
Three minutes later, Casaceli took a crossing pass from defenseman Zach Bayer from short range and blistered the puck past NAU goalie for a 2-0 Sun Devils' advantage.
ASU put the game out of reach with about 5 minutes left in the second period when McNeely scored on Housley's second helper.
"We knew it was 0-0 heading into the second, but we just stuck with our game plan," Ehrlich said. "We had no doubts that we were going to win that game."
In the third period, NAU (12-11-1 overall) rallied less than seven minutes into the frame after forward Corey Briody scored on assists from Kirby Carlson and Max Mahood.
"At this point in the season, we have a target on our back being the No. 1 team in our division, and we're going to get everyone's best," ASU ELITE goalie Lucas Felbel said. "NAU put us on our heels there for a bit, so we have to be ready."
Trailing 3-1, NAU went on a power play shortly afterward. However, ASU would kill it, putting the Ice Jacks at 0-for-2 on the night on the man advantage.
Both teams jockeyed back and forth for most of the third period until the final minute, when Ehrlich scored his second goal on an empty-netter from near mid-ice.
Up 4-1 with 54.7 seconds left, ASU forward Coda Engbar dumped in another score 10 seconds later on an assist from Ehrlich to tie a ribbon on the game in front of a rowdy Sun Devils' bench.
"We took some good steps today - we had a good first half of the game, very dominant," Felbel said. "We had them pinned in their own zone for quite a while. We've just got to work on sustaining that and putting together a complete 60 minutes."