The momentum of Arizona's four-game win streak was tempered over the last week as reality set in that this weekend's series against Arizona State would be the Icecats' final two games of the season.
Friday night, the Sun Devils made sure there was little, if any, momentum left headed into tonight's season finale. ASU scored five unanswered goals in the third period to turn an otherwise close affair into an 11-5 rout.
"We ran out of gas," said Arizona's Mike Babyak. "The first two lines played pretty well all game but seemed to get tired in the third."
Despite sweeps of Weber State and Colorado State over the last two weekends, Arizona failed to reach its season-long goal of earning a spot in the national tournament.
A five-game losing streak at the end of January played a part in this, as the Icecats were swept by ASU and Minot State - both teams that will play in the tournament.
"It's a little disappointing not making the tournament," said Arizona's Eric Watters. "But from what I've heard this is the best season we've had in the past two, three seasons."
Any lingering disappointment didn't hamper Arizona's effort in the first two periods on Friday.
In fact, neither squad had difficulty finding the back of the net in the first two periods, but neither could gain a clear advantage. Entering the third, there had already been four ties and four lead changes.
The Icecats held leads of 3-2 and 4-3 in the second period, the last advantage coming on a power-play goal by Brian Slugocki.
However, consecutive penalties against the Icecats midway through the second period forced Arizona to play man-down hockey for four minutes. Arizona State's Danny McAuliffe took advantage with 19 seconds left during the last ASU power play, scoring the first of his game-high four goals. ASU added another score with one second remaining in the second period.
"That didn't help us too much," said Arizona coach Leo Golembiewski. "I thought we played well for half the game and you have to play 60 minutes."
With the Icecats trailing 6-4 entering the final period, Babyak cut the deficit to one goal, but that was as close as the Icecats would get. Arizona State scored four goals over a three-minute span midway through the third and added a fifth with 37 seconds remaining.
"Hopefully we can come out hot (Saturday)," Babyak said.
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