Senior forward Brenden Locke scored goals early in the second and third periods on Sunday night, but it proved to be too little, too late for the Cornell men’s hockey team in a 3-2 loss to Arizona State at Oceanside Ice Arena.
Cornell (9-3-1), which entered the weekend ranked ninth in both the DCU/USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls while boasting the nation’s highest winning percentage, was ultimately swept by Arizona State (12-10) in suffering the program’s first back-to-back losses since Feb. 16 and Feb. 22, 2019.
Freshman goaltender Ian Shane joined Locke as one of the Big Red’s stars on the evening, stopping all 23 shots he saw over 39-plus minutes of action after coming on in relief late in the first period. While it proved to be a terrific collegiate debut, it came with the caveat of inheriting a three-goal deficit.
Arizona State created that mountain despite Cornell actually outshooting the hosts in the opening period. Ty Murchison scored just 1:43 into the game, Josh Doan converted on the rush at the 11:38 mark, and Ryan O’Reilly’s one-timer from inside the center point at 18:47 led to Shane’s entry.
While the Sun Devils ultimately outshot the Big Red in the second period, the visitors started to gain traction in both the run of the play and on the scoreboard with Locke’s first tally. Sophomore defenseman Tim Rego helped move the puck through the neutral zone, then junior forwards Ben Tupker and Jack Malone helped set up Locke for a shot from near the top of the left faceoff circle that beat ASU goaltender Cole Brady to the glove side.
Arizona State carried the resulting two-goal lead into the final frame, but only as far as Locke’s second strike with 17:55 to play. About 24 hours removed from his first collegiate goal, freshman forward Justin Ertel helped start the play by swatting a rebound from near the left post to Locke along the end boards. Locke found junior defenseman Travis Mitchell at the left point, whose return feed to Locke near the top of the circle created a scoring chance when Locke sidestepped a defender while moving toward the slot. His backhanded shot fooled Brady, sliding through the goaltender’s legs to pull the rejuvenated Big Red to within one down the stretch.
Those comeback efforts hit a roadblock midway through the frame when the visitors were assessed a major penalty, but the Big Red killed off the five-minute disadvantage and pressed late. Brady would ultimately make 34 saves to earn his second victory in as many nights.
With the two goals, Locke ran his point total to eight over the last five games.
Cornell continues its challenging stretch of nine straight games away from home next weekend at North Dakota, when it takes on the Fighting Hawks for a pair of non-league games Jan. 7-8.