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Arizona hockey: The importance of Saturday's win over No. 1 Arizona State for the Widcats

The 37-game winless streak against ASU is finally over, which could lead to some even bigger things in Tucson

Arizona celebrates the victory over ASU
Arizona celebrates the victory over ASU
©Natalie Hannah

It was five years in the making.  February 2009 was the last time Arizona had scored more goals in a game of ice hockey than Arizona State.

37 games.

And in 60 short minutes on senior night in Tempe, Arizona erased all of that behind great play from goaltender Steven Sisler, and goals from Shane Gleason and Ansel Ivens-Anderson.

37 games.  Over.  Just like that.

But what does it mean for this program and head coach Sean Hogan?

This 2013-14 season has been one full of the highest-quality opponents Arizona could find.  The Wildcats have played the toughest schedule in the entire ACHA this year, which shows by being ranked in the top 15 even with a losing record overall (15-16-0)

This year, the Arizona Wildcats have beaten the number one team in the country not once, but twice.  The first coming when the Minot St. Beavers lost in Tucson earlier this year.  Arizona had never taken down the top team in the country in the history of the program before this year.  It's now happened twice.  In one season

This win also takes that gorilla off the players' backs and off of coach Hogan's back.  Hogan had never led Arizona to a win over ASU.  In fact, the Sun Devils were on the precipice of having two consecutive senior classes go their entire college careers having never lost to Arizona.

Arizona can no longer be intimidated by this team.

It looked like it was a done deal just three minutes into Saturday's game when ASU had already picked up a short-handed goal.  Just a night after a 5-0 shutout win which included two SHGs, there was no way the Devils would let this one go, right?

The old Arizona team, and really, the Arizona team that we saw against Liberty just two short weeks ago would have imploded.  Taken dumb penalties all night.  The kind of night Arizona had against ASU a little under two months ago when they gave up 12 unanswered goals on Saturday to a Sun Devil team missing five of its top players.

But this new brand of Arizona hockey has shown glimpses of greatness this season, not the least of which being the three games against another top-five team in Oklahoma.  The Sooners are the only other team to have beaten Arizona St. this season, and the Wildcats went 3-0-0 against OU this year.

ASU loses eight players from this year's roster, including some of their top point-scorers from the last few years.  So all of the sudden that aura is gone.

Arizona can no longer be intimidated by this team.

They went into Tempe on senior night and took down the top-ranked team in the country.  A team that went 37 straight matchups against them without losing.  A team that was 29-1-0 on the year heading into that game.

A team that had its seniors being interviewed during the intermissions saying that the highlight of their careers at ASU was never losing to Arizona, even though they were in the midst of a tie-game against that very team they were already claiming victory over.

If that doesn't speak to the arrogance and confidence that ASU has when playing Arizona, I don't know what does.

Yes, there's still inconsistency.  Once this team figures it out and performs at a high-level on a consistent basis and doesn't shoot itself in the foot with dumb penalties, there's the potential for something big here in Tucson.

For now, I'm going to enjoy the streak being over and get revved up for the next meetings in Tucson on February 21st and 22nd.

But watching this team breakthrough and get that elusive victory was something special, and one that could propel this program to bigger and better things in the weeks, months, and years to come.