After a five-point performance through the weekend series against Arizona State, Colorado College freshman Christiano Versich got the call in the shootout, an element he often prepares for and takes “a lot of pride in.”
He swerved right up to Sun Devils goaltender Joey Daccord slowly. It didn’t look promising. But he fired the puck low and beat him, and Tiger teammate Alex Leclerc made the save at the other end to finish the game.
“I’ve done that for a couple years now,” Versich said. “Pretty much any goalie who hasn’t seen it, it works.
“That sounds pretty arrogant, but it’s never really not worked the first time I’ve done it. After that, it’ll never work again.”
It sent fans into the Christmas break happy but ultimately didn’t count for anything.
The Tigers went 1-0-1 against Arizona State, but felt they left a win on the table Sunday afternoon, rallying out of an early two-goal hole only to surrender a two-goal lead of their own in a 4-4 official tie.
“The standard has to be higher,” coach Mike Haviland said.
Arizona State, with an assertiveness it lacked in a 4-0 defeat Saturday night, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Gvido Jansons got the Sun Devils on the board for the first time in the series with a hard shot that eluded Leclerc.
A turnover to the right of Leclerc turned into a 3-on-1 for Arizona State, and they took their time, passing it around before Brett Gruber buried his chance.
Nick Halloran woke the Tigers (8-7-3) and the crowd up on the power play with his ninth goal of the season, a wrister through a screen.
“We wanted an easy game, and it wasn’t going to be an easy game,” Haviland said. “They had more energy than us. I don’t know if we got mad, but we started to play.”
Just over two minutes later, Trevor Gooch charged in and beat Daccord off the rush, then added his second of the night on the power play in the waning seconds of the period.
Gooch finished with 2 goals, 2 assists on the weekend, and his line, centered by Versich (1 goal, 4 assists) with Westin Michaud (2 goals, 1 assist) on the right wing, provided much of the offense against Arizona State (4-10-4).
“My line had a decent weekend,” Versich said. “We just need to focus on the positives moving forward, because you can’t do much about the past.”
Tanner Ockey skated in from the boards, threw the puck past Daccord 6:18 into the second period and made it 4-2. Then it was time for the Sun Devils’ rally. Tyler Busch blasted one past Leclerc, then right off the first faceoff of a Tigers power play, Anthony Croston took off on a breakaway and tied the game.
The nets remained empty until Versich’s shootout winner. He is headed home to northern Minnesota for Christmas, eager to spend time with family, rest and put this series aside.
“When you have the opportunity to sweep a team who’s a lot lower than you, standings-wise, and you don’t, you’re going to be disappointed,” Versich said. “They came out to play today, and we just didn’t really answer.”