Cover Photo Credit: Daniel Cervantes, KAMP Student Radio
At the Tucson Arena in downtown Tucson, two classic rivals entered with the goal to emerge the winner no matter the cost. A steady stream of fans, largely the hometown crowd, shuffled into the Arena to form one of the largest crowds the Wildcats had seen all season. Before the puck even dropped, the crowd knew the result to come.
Coming out of the Thanksgiving break, the Arizona State Sun Devils sat at a mediocre 5-8-0 record to start off their club season in the ACHA. Prior to the break, ASU fell into a three-game losing streak dating back to 11/19 with an 11-1 embarrassment at Minot. Their last result was closer, a 5-3 loss at home to Rhode Island on 11/21.
For the hosting Wildcats, they entered the night 11-5-0, emboldened by a seven-game winning streak and their last result a strong 4-0 shutout of Pac-8 Champion Oregon on 11/20. Just days prior to this match, on November 30th, the team was also met with the announcement of a brand new home arena, the Mosaic Quarter Iceplex, a 3,000 seat arena exclusively for hockey, both men's and women's, set to open August 2024. From this point on, the days of sharing the Tucson Arena with the Tucson Roadrunners were numbered.
At 7:30 PM MST, the puck dropped and the classic rivalry entered a new chapter, Arizona in their home whites and ASU in their blacks.
The first period of play was largely an even affair. Both teams attempted to drive up ice and put shots on goal, but many of the passes and possessions were off-target and inconsistent. The tone for the game was set early, however, when Arizona's Jesse Lowell was called for roughing after 7:50. Shortly thereafter, ASU's Michael Syring was called for cross-checking at the 11:40 mark. At 15:59, Arizona's Matthew Marquis would find himself in the box for roughing as well. Only 10 seconds later, poor play in the neutral zone led to ASU giving the puck up to Lowell, who broke away unassisted and buried the puck in the net behind ASU goaltender Blake Bjella. 16:09 into the first, and Arizona had a 1-0 lead. The first period would end with one final Arizona penalty, Lowell committing a hard hook to end up in the box only two minutes after scoring the goal (18:22).
The second period would begin again with even play, both teams exchanging bit hits and shots for the first 10 minutes. 10:57 in, Dawson Marshall set up Matthew Hohl to slip the puck past Bjella to extend Arizona's lead to two. A few minutes later, at the 13:34 mark, ASU's Zachary Kowulchuk would be called for cross-checking, putting the Wildcats on the power play. Taking advantage of the extra man, Lowell and John Shively set Alex Johanson up for the power-play goal, Arizona's lead stretching to 3-0 14:37 into the second.
As the second period reached the end, the tension between the teams began to reach a boiling point. 18:21 in, ASU scratched a goal back as Wyatt Palmer took a shot from the point that deflected off Kowulchuk and past Arizona goaltender Anthony Ciurro, making it 3-1. Only 33 seconds later, a big hit in the corner to the left of the Arizona goal incited a scuffle that resulted in multiple penalties and ejections. Arizona’s Ben Jones would get a 2:00 penalty for roughing while Connor Ziegler was ejected for a vicious cross-check resulting in a game misconduct. For ASU, Kowulchuk and Palmer, the players responsible for their only goal, would be ejected for fighting and game misconducts. ASU would also be forced to accept a five-minute penalty that would leave them down a man to start the third period. Before the puck could be dropped again, a fan was also ejected for pouring a drink into the ASU penalty box.
The hard hits and extracurricular activities from the second period would make their presence known early in the third. Only 3:40 in, ASU’s Brendan Studioso was sent to the penalty box for slashing, leaving the Sun Devils down three on five. The Wildcats punished the Sun Devils only 11 seconds later, Brody Selman setting Lowell up for his second goal of the game to make it 4-1 Arizona and forcing ASU to put backup goaltender Dawson Rodin in. About three minutes later, Arizona’s Marquis would go to the penalty box again for cross-checking (7:17). 10:44 in, ASU and Arizona would be dealt a pair of two-minute penalties, ASU’s Tyler Kiley Ram going to the box for cross-checking and Arizona’s Jones for roughing. A short four minutes later, ASU’s Elliot Pourde and Arizona’s Will Josephson would be called for roughing (14:53).
With time ticking down in the game, it became time for some fireworks. 18:11 into the third, with less than two minutes to play, another big hit incited an on-ice brawl as nearly every player on the ice, including the ASU goaltender, came together near the ASU blue line. After a lengthy scrum that led to multiple gloves, sticks, and players hitting the ice, more penalties were dealt out. Arizona’s Josephson, Josh Lusby, Christopher Fritz, and Cameron Teamor were all ejected for fighting resulting in game misconducts, with Lusby’s call incurring a five-minute penalty to reduce Arizona’s on-ice numbers. For ASU, Connor Kruk and Ryan Lanpheer were both ejected for fighting resulting in game misconducts, and the goaltender Rodin would receive a two-minute penalty for roughing to be served by a teammate.
A short 1:49 later, the final horn would blow and it was over. Arizona won 4-1.
With the game wrapped up, the final scoring stats for the Wildcats are as follows:
#18 Jesse Lowell notched two goals and an assist to end the night with three points.
#13 Matthew Hohl and #28 Alex Johanson both scored a goal and earned a point.
#10 Dawson Marshall, #5 John Shively, and #20 Brody Selman all earned an assist and a point.
For ASU, the final scoring stats are as follows:
#5 Zachary Kowulchuk scored a goal and earned a point.
#25 Wyatt Palmer earned an assist and a point.
At the end of the night, five Wildcats were ejected from the game, along with four Sun Devils and the single fan, a grand total of 10 ejections.
With the result in hand, the Arizona Wildcats improved to 12-5-0 on the year while the Arizona State Sun Devils dropped to 5-9-0. Arizona’s winning streak extends to eight now while ASU’s losing streak drags on to four straight. Both teams get to look forward to battling it out once again on the ice tonight, Saturday, December 4th at 7:30 PM to see whether Arizona sweeps the two-game set or ASU draws it even. Based on this game’s result, it isn’t too far off to expect some more tough, 1980’s-esque hockey tonight.