Arizona State picks up OT win over Princeton in weekend finale

By Chris Gleason // Hockey Writer for Blaze Sports 

Arizona State forward Tyler Busch attempts a cross ice pass to his teammate in a matchup vs Princeton // (Photo: Weston DeWitt / Blaze Sports)

TEMPE, AZ  — The Arizona State hockey team slid past Princeton on Saturday night in an overtime, 4-3. This win comes after ASU dropped the series opener to the Tigers on Friday, 4-0.

At first, Princeton continued where they left off Friday night, scoring six and a half minutes into the game on Alex Riche’s point-blank wrist shot. Riche frustrated the Sun Devils all weekend, totaling two goals and two assists on seven shots.

“That line that they have is the best line I’ve seen this year for sure and maybe since we’ve been division one (in 2015),” Powers said. “They were that dominant, and we did not have an answer for them. Our answer was (goalie) Joey Daccord.”

As a team, the Tigers outscored ASU 5-0 and outshot them 51-29 through the first four periods of their weekend series.

The Sun Devils made sure the last two periods would be a different story though, starting with Tyler Busch’s goal four minutes into the second. It was a power-play goal, but ASU played noticeably better at even-strength in the ensuing minutes, pressuring Princeton on both ends and getting several opportunities on breakaways set up by Johnny Walker.

Sophomore goaltender Joey Daccord also shined in the second, saving all 11 shots and none bigger than the four saves he made during a Princeton power-play midway through the period, keeping the game 1-1.

“He’s making such spectacular saves, he held us in the game,” Powers said. “He was really good, he deserved to win that game.”

ASU took its first lead of the series just over a minute into the third period, as David Norris scored on a rebound from a right-wing cross by Busch.

The nation’s fifth-best scoring offense wasn’t going to get beat that easy though, as Princeton turned up the intensity in a period that already saw four penalties.

Junior winger Ryan Kuffner tipped in a loose puck just over hallway into the third, then zipped a wrister past Daccord to give Princeton a 3-2 lead late.

Arizona State forward Kyle Clifford skates across center ice against Princeton // (Photo: Weston DeWitt / Blaze Sports)

“Those are ones that I expect myself to save,” Daccord said. “The guys really picked me up and scored two for me and I did my best to shut them down.”

Walker was pestering Princeton all night for the Devils. ASU was just minutes away from another loss when he finally pushed the Tigers over the edge, eventually costing them the game.

Princeton led 3-2 late in the third when Walker drew a cross-checking penalty from senior defenseman Matt Nelson. It was a careless penalty that likely resulted from frustration, as Princeton drew eight penalty calls on the night.

“We won the special teams battle and that’s why we won the game,” head coach Greg Powers said. “Our kill was tremendous.”

Nelson’s penalty proved costly, as sophomore forward Brett Gruber slammed home a shot from the right face-off circle to tie the game in the final minute.

“Johnny’s an agitator,” Powers said, “He’s learning how to channel his inner Johnny Walker and if he can continue to do that it’s going to help us more than it hurts us.”

The Sun Devils prevailed on the goal off the late Walker penalty, as  Norris scored the overtime winner only 1:47 into the extra session on a angled shot from the right boards past Tigers goalie Ben Halford to secure the 4-3 win.

“I think moving forward we just got to keep up that intensity and look to play physical and to our identity,” Busch said.

ASU improved to 4-9-3 on the season and visits Colorado College next Saturday at 6 p.m.

Princeton falls to 6-7-1 and is off until it hosts St. Cloud Friday, December 29 at 7 p.m.

Chris Gleason is a special fill in writer for Arizona State NCAA Hockey for Blaze Radio. You can reach out to him at ccgleaso@asu.edu or follow Chris on Twitter @realchrisgleas1.

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