Arizona State welcomed No. 15 Merrimack College to open the 2023-24 college hockey season in a two game series this past week. Last season, the Warriors were one of the better teams in college hockey, earning a record of 23-14-1. Merrimack made it to the Hockey East Tournament Finals losing to Boston University 3-2 in overtime and made an appearance in the NCAA Championship Playoffs. However, the Sun Devils would pull off two upsets over the Warriors to start the season with the scores being 1-0 and 4-2.
After a scoreless regulation of play full of quality defending on Friday the 13th, ASU’s first game would head to overtime against Merrimack. Senior assistant captain Matthew Kopperud would deliver the game-winning goal in overtime on the power play and would continue his clutch level of play over to the next night’s game. Junior goalie Tim Semptimphelter earned a 31-save shutout in the victory.
The next night the Sun Devils found themselves trailing the Warriors 2-1 heading in the third period. Juniors Matt Copponni and Mark Hillier found the back of the net for Merrimack, while senior assistant captain Ryan O’Reily scored the lone goal for Arizona State in period number two. ASU came out firing on all cylinders for the third period, as they scored three goals in the final 10 minutes of play, two of which came on the power play. Senior assistant captain, Lucas Sillinger put the equalizer in, while playing in his 100th career NCAA game. Kopperud continued his heroic play for the Sun Devils as he scored another game-winning goal, this time at the 19:35.9 minute-mark in the third period. Leaving little time for Merrimack to mount a comeback, the Warriors would pull the goalie and San Jose Sharks’ prospect Alex Young scored on the empty net to seal it for the maroon and gold. When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read a 4-2 victory for ASU. Transfer grad student, Brian Chambers, picked up three assists in the win over Merrimack.
The Sun Devils valorant wins have them inside the top 20 of the USCHO.com poll rankings for the first time since 2020. The sweep over the Warriors bounces them from the top 20 rankings this week. The last time Arizona Start made the NCAA tournament was in the 2018-19 season where they lost in the regional semifinals 2-1 to Quinnipaic. A strong start to the season has the team set on high aspirations, looking to make another appearance in the NCAA tournament. As ASU plays its last year as an independent, they’ll join the National College Hockey Conference (NCHC) for the 2024-25 season.
Arizona State will take on Northern Michigan University this Friday and Saturday, October 20th and 21st at Mullett Arena. Northern Michigan is 0-1-1 on the season, posting a tie and loss to No. 14 Minnesota Duluth. In NMU, ASU takes on another competitive opponent, posting close scores against a ranked team.