Cover Photo Credit: Daniel Cervantes, KAMP Student Radio
Only 24 hours after a hard-hitting Friday night affair, the Sun Devils and Wildcats once again found themselves facing off at the Tucson Arena, now under the lights on Saturday night. Just like the night before, another large crowd of students and alumni gathered in the Arena for a match to wrap up Alumni Weekend and this two-game set.
After the previous night’s 4-1 victory, Arizona now stood at 12-5-0, their winning streak now at eight. ASU meanwhile witnessed their skid slip to four straight without a victory, their season record now 5-9-0. Arizona once again donned their home whites while ASU went out in their road blacks, and at 7:30 PM, the game was on.
The first period began with some big hits and a lot of neutral zone play as both sides effectively carried the puck back and forth across the ice. 1:27 in, Arizona’s Alex Johanson found himself in the penalty box for boarding, but nothing would come of it. Both sides took over 12 shots on goal in the period, but most were effectively saved by the goaltenders. No action would occur until 16:30 had passed in the period when Arizona’s Jesse Lowell was called for interference, a penalty the Wildcats killed off successfully. When the horn for the first period blew, it seemed like anyone’s game, neither side having an edge despite the Sun Devils going on the power play twice.
During the first intermission, the main headline of the weekend occurred as the Wildcats retired the number of team icon Jeremy Goltz, #21. Goltz was a star defenseman for the Wildcats from 1990-94, notching 36 goals and 62 assists for a total of 98 points in his career. Nowadays, he is an assistant coach for the team and was the 2010 ACHA Coach of the Year. Another accolade of his is that he is the founder of Mission Hockey. From this point on, Goltz’s number hangs from the rafters in the Tucson Arena and will continue to in the Mosaic Quarter Iceplex when it is completed in 2024.
The second period began with high hopes for both sides, both teams looking to take the edge. The period would ultimately be marked by even counterattack play as both sides drove back and forth across the ice with speed, exchanging shots, saves, and hits. Ultimately, no goals or penalties would occur until 16:20 had passed, when Arizona’s Josh Lusby was called for elbowing. Despite the power play, the Sun Devils couldn’t get any results, and the period ended with both teams still locked in a 0-0 stalemate.
As the third period began, the tension within the Arena could be felt as the fans knew that from this point on, it seemed the first team to score would be the team to win. Arizona took to the attack quickly as ASU’s possessions became more sloppy and loose as the game progressed, leading to a turnover in neutral ice to Arizona’s Max Meyer, who set up his teammate Anthony Cusanelli to bury the puck in net past ASU’s Erik Garber. Only 4:48 into the third, the Wildcats now had a slim 1-0 lead, and they had to hold it. ASU had multiple opportunities throughout the period, a shot even going off the crossbar to deny them. Arizona’s Nolan Bivolcic continued to make save after save, playing his best game of the season. 11:01 in, ASU’s Adam Chismar ended up in the box for slashing, but Arizona would be unable to take advantage. Nearly nine agonizing minutes later, the final horn blew and the players began to shove and punch near the Wildcat net, ending the 1-0 affair with some fireworks.
The only players to earn points in the match were Arizona’s #15 Anthony Cusanelli and #27 Max Meyer, both earning a point from a goal and an assist respectively. Both goaltenders, ASU’s #30 Erik Garber and Arizona’s #35 Nolan Bivolcic, deserve nods for their fantastic work in goal, the former’s flawless night ultimately spoiled while the latter earned a well-deserved shutout.
With the match in hand, the Wildcats complete the two-game sweep against the Sun Devils to finish out their final homestand of the 2021 half of the season. They improve to 13-5-0 on the year with their ninth straight victory as they now look ahead toward 12/11 where they will travel up to Prescott, Arizona to face off against Grand Canyon to wrap up their 2021 slate of games and head into winter break.
As for ASU, their cold streak continues as the result hands them their fifth straight loss and a record of 5-10-0. Unfortunately for ASU, their road trip to end 2021 isn’t over, as they now look to head up to Las Vegas to take on UNLV for a doubleheader starting on 12/10 and ending the night of 12/11, the latter match ending their 2021 half of the year.