IceJacks swept at home by rival ASU Sun Devils
BY MATT ESAENA —
The NAU-ASU hockey rivalry was at an all-time high entering this past weekend. NAU entered the two-game series ranked No. 4 in the ACHA Western Conference while the Sun Devils traveled to Flagstaff ranked No. 2. The teams had met four times before the contests, with NAU holding the season series lead at 3–1, all three wins coming in a shoot-out. ASU came ready to play and the scoreboard showed. On Jan. 25, the Jacks had to swallow a 7–0 loss followed by a 6–1 defeat on Jan. 26.
“We knew it was going to be a battle coming into the games,” said sophomore forward Vinny Eck. “We underestimated them a little bit, but we didn’t put enough pressure on them.”
The Jacks ended the first period on Jan. 26 down 4–0. The sold-out crowd at the rink remained quiet for most of the game. The Jacks missed every loose puck, lost too many battles in the corners and were not able to capitalize on power plays; including a two-minute 5-on-3 man-advantage.
Senior goalie Quinn Mason nabbed the start in net for NAU and had 33 saves as the IceJacks were outshot 39–22. Senior captain forward Carter Achilles scored his third goal of the season, and the lone goal, of the series for NAU late in the third period to snap a five-period scoreless streak for the team. The goal was one of the only two things fans had to cheer about during the games.
The other situation came in third period on Jan. 26 when junior defenseman Dillon Butenhoff dropped the gloves and fought ASU’s sophomore forward Ryan Mohr. The fight was a good tilt and had fans talking about it for the rest of the game.
“We have to come ready and be ready for this team,” said senior forward Taylor Dustin. “We have to be the first ones to the puck. Puck protection is key.”
ASU stunned the Jacks on Jan. 25 by jumping out to a 3–0 lead within the first five minutes. Junior goalie James Korte relieved the starter, Mason, after those first five minutes and played the rest of the game with 31 saves. ASU outshot NAU 40–20 and only had four shots on goal in the disastrous first period. ASU had 11 different skaters record a point in the 7–0 game.
“Something needs to change for us to be a dominant team again,” said junior forward Ryan Greenspan.
Despite the ugly sight of the scoreboard from this past weekend, the one positive for NAU is the team’s health. Greenspan was activated from the injury list after doctors told him he would not be able to return to the ice after injuring his MCL. Sophomore forward Zach Fader is back on the ice and feeling great after having to have heart surgery this past semester.
The game on Jan. 26 was senior night for NAU hockey. The IceJacks honored graduating players Mason, Dustin and Achilles, along with forwards Nick Short and James Terry.
The IceJacks may have finished their home games for this year, but the season is not over yet. NAU will prepare themselves in practice these next two weeks before traveling to California to participate in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s (ACHA) Western Division Tournament. Then the IceJacks will close out their regular season on Feb. 15 and 16 in a rematch against ASU in Tempe.