(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
After taking home its first tournament title in Sin City last weekend, Arizona State hockey will head into its opening home series of the new year with newfound confidence against UMass Lowell.
The Sun Devils begin a stretch of home games on Jan. 12 against UMass-Lowell, a Hockey East contender ranked in the top-20 for both offense and defense, according to USCHO.com.
While ASU’s offense is currently ranked No. 55 out of 60 Division-I teams, the betterment at the Ice Vegas Invitational has created a noticeable shift in momentum; this week the Sun Devils are learning from wins, not losses.
“It’s going to be huge for us to follow that up,” ASU captain Dylan Hollman said. “We gotta kind of prove to ourselves that last weekend wasn’t a fluke and just continue building.”
After entering 2018 with 12 losses, it’s evident that getting pucks in the net has been a season-long struggle.
“We’re not going to score the really pretty tic-tac-toe, sky-skill goals, our guys I think are aware of that now,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said.
With a different and hard-hitting approach in Vegas, the effort of six Sun Devils generated 10 goals, making the 2-0 weekend the best result thus far.
“You can still be offensive, and get production offensively, by being dirty and hard, and if we’re going to have success that’s what we gotta do,” Powers said. “We’re off to a good start doing that in the new year.”
On the other end of the ice, ASU will face Lowell’s Christoffer Hernberg – a net-minder with the potential to obliterate the offensive stride.
Hernberg comes to the desert ranked with the sixth-best save percentage in the nation at .929, along with his 1.89 goals against average – the best in Hockey East.
Like ASU, the River Hawks are heading into the matchup after a winning weekend; the team successfully shut out Vermont, 6-0 and then defeated UMass Amherst, 8-3.
“They’re going to be a really good challenge for us, but you know our guys are confident right now and we’ve got them in our house,” Powers said.
Beyond testing the confidence of the Sun Devils, the upcoming series will demonstrate if the team has the ability to demonstrate consistency during the remainder of the season.