(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Arizona State made headlines when it made the transition from ACHA to Division I hockey. The rarity of the move played into why it attracted so much attention. No team had transitioned since the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2012.
Since the two are the most recent NCAA teams and the Sun Devils are halfway through the season, it is only fitting to compare the progress of the teams to see how ASU stacks up in its inaugural season against a team that has already made significant waves in NCAA hockey.
The Nittany Lions finished year one at 13-14-0, impressive for a team that was just beginning in the NCAA. Like ASU, Penn State lost in the final four of the ACHA tournament the year before their transition. However, the Nittany Lions did not have a recent ACHA championship like the Sun Devils had in 2014.
Through the 17 game mark that the Sun Devils are currently at, PSU set the bar high, hovering around .500, a far cry from ASU’s lackluster 5-12-0 record that it boasts. The Nittany Lions played some tough foes, such as Holy Cross, Air Force, Union and Wisconsin. They finished just 2-6 in their eight games against those teams.
From the naked eye, it does not appear that their schedule was as challenging as the Sun Devils’ slate of games this season. ASU has faced powerhouses such as No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha, Connecticut and then-No. 17 Quinnipiac. Arizona State still has to face No. 5 St. Cloud State and No. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell. Most of the Devils’ other games have come against stiff competition as well, even if some of the other teams aren’t as high caliber as those mentioned. The Sun Devils have also had challenging exhibition games, including two against Alberta of the CIS.
(MAP KEY | GOLD: ASU has already traveled here | MAROON: ASU will travel here this season | NAVY: Penn State traveled here in 2012-13)
On The Road
Both teams played significantly less home games than they did on the road. The Nittany Lions went 5-4-0 in their nine home games, while ASU is currently 2-0 at home in NCAA play, having success despite a minimal sample size. They have five more NCAA home games remaining.
While it is fair to be disappointed with the Sun Devils in their inaugural year, their schedule has definitely not been a breeze, which is part of the reason why they aren’t performing quite as well as Penn State had.
Special Teams Success
The record difference can be criticized, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, at this point, the Sun Devils have the advantage on the Nittany Lions in many statistical categories, including on the power play. Penn State was dreadful with the man-advantage during its first season, converting just 12 times on 106 opportunities, good for just a .113 conversion percentage.
ASU has not had quite as many chances, but has a .196 conversion percentage thus far and has scored 11 power play goals, just one shy of the amount PSU scored all season in 2012. The Sun Devils have mentioned special teams as a key for them all season long, and it is looking like a strength – albeit an inconsistent one – for them right now. On the other side of the spectrum, the Nittany Lions scored three times while shorthanded in 2012, while Arizona State has scored just once this year while down a man.
So far, the Sun Devils have scored 35 goals, putting them on pace for 70 total. The Nittany Lions scored 74 in year one, which makes the expected mark for ASU just shy. The Sun Devils have been more opportunistic during exhibition games, though; they have scored 14 goals in the three games that did not count towards their record, including eight against Arizona of the ACHA.
The Sun Devils’ leading goal scorer, freshman forward Jordan Masters, is on pace for 12 goals, which is less than two players from the 2012-13 Nittany Lions squad, Casey Bailey and David Glen, who were also both freshmen at the time. The Sun Devils’ production has been a bit more spread out.
In The Box
While it is tough to judge the amount of total penalties while ASU is still in season, the Sun Devils are currently on pace to shatter the mark of the Nittany Lions. PSU committed 173 penalties in their inaugural season and ASU currently has 94 at the halfway point. That puts the Sun Devils on pace to commit 188 by the end of the season, although that number could decrease if ASU becomes more disciplined as the season goes on.
Between The Pipes
Two PSU goalies, Matthew Skoff and PJ Musico, combined for a .907 save percentage in their first season against NCAA competition. The Sun Devils have cast a slightly wider net of contributors in goal, receiving production from three players, with freshman Ryland Pashovitz getting the majority of the looks. They have combined for a .910 save percentage, so it’s hard to exactly make a determination for who received better production in net.
One thing that the Devils do have going for them with their goalie situation is depth that Penn State couldn’t exactly match. The Sun Devils have three players – Pashovitz, senior Robert Levin and freshman David Jacobsen – that head coach Greg Powers would feel comfortable with starting during a game.
You Play To Win The Game
When it comes to wins and losses, ASU has not enjoyed the same success that Penn State had. However, with most of the statistical categories nearly even, it would not be a surprise to see the Sun Devils win-loss record even out towards where Penn State’s was. Yet at this point of the season, ASU leaves a bit to be desired when compared to their counterparts from 2012.