RECAP: ASU defeats NAIT in exhibition matchup

By Will Everett // NCAA Hockey Reporter for Blaze Sports

Arizona State forward Brett Gruber celebrates after his goal scored in the 2nd period put ASU up 2-0 vs NAIT Saturday // (Photo by Weston DeWitt / Blaze Sports)

Tempe, AZ          The Arizona State Sun Devils won in their first exhibition matchup against the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks by a score of 4-1 on Saturday night.

The story of this game was special teams, and the young freshman Johnny Walker scored a huge first goal to go along with strong Sun Devil goaltending.

The Sun Devils were on the man advantage twelve times and only capitalized on two of those chances on Saturday.

“Overall I thought the second power-play unit looked better than the first,” said Sun Devil Head Coach Greg Powers. “The first did some good things, hit some posts, but that’s a really good team and a really good goalie.”

ASU also committed four penalties, one of which resulted in the Ooks only goal. Powers didn’t comment on the penalty kill effort.

The turning point of the game was the first goal scored by freshman and Phoenix native Johnny Walker. Walker collected a pass from David Norris and pumped it low glove side with 4:57 left to go in the first period.

“It’s good to get the monkey off you back for sure,” said Walker. “But more importantly we stuck together of as team and we were able to come out on top.”

Being an Arizona native was a major influence in his commitment to Arizona State.

“Once he heard we were going D-1 he literally begged for a roster spot, and he had options,” said Powers.

The energy after Walker’s goal shifted immensely in the favor of the Sun Devils. NAIT had trouble entering the Sun Devil zone for the rest of the first and into the second period. ASU struck again early in the second period at the hands of Filips Buncis. It was after the goal in which NAIT maintained possession and capitalized on a power play right after the Buncis goal.

Arizona State goaltender Joey Daccord made nine saves in Saturday’s exhibition vs NAIT // (Photo by Weston DeWitt / Blaze Sports)

Other major contributing factors to the Sun Devils victory was not one, but two solid performances in net. Powers utilized both of his goal tenders by substituting junior Ryland Pashovitz for starting goalie and Ottawa Senators prospect, Joey Daccord.

“We’ve literally had them on the ice for two hours every day this week,” said Powers. “They are both very good goalies.”

Powers would not reveal who he would be starting against UMASS-Amherst in the Sun Devils regular season home opener next weekend. Daccord posted a .900 goals against average, stopping nine of his ten shots faced, while Pashovitz remained perfect while facing six shots.

The game came to a tumultuous close, as both teams had multiple players in the penalty box at a time. Powers says he, “chalks that up to just being part of hockey”.

“UMASS is a good team with a good coach,” Powers said. “We just need to clean up the sloppiness…it’s tough for visiting teams to play in this building.”

Powers explained that the team has to build more chemistry, but they are excited to start the regular season on a positive note.

Will Everett is one of Blaze Radio’s beat writers for the NCAA Hockey team at Arizona State. You can reach out to him at or follow Will on Twitter @TheRealWillyEvs

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