(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Four straight shutouts and 13 consecutive losses have put a damper on the Arizona State Sun Devils’ inaugural season in the NCAA. Now ASU will have a chance to rebound against the Ohio Bobcats of the ACHA at the friendly confines of Oceanside Ice Arena.
“It’s hugely important to finish the season strong,” head coach Greg Powers said. “We like how our schedule lays out, the tough games are behind us. We are battle tested. We have played at a speed and a pace against opponents that have made us a better team and people are going to see that this weekend.”
ASU will come into the weekend with story lines aplenty. Freshman forward Jordan Masters was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the best player in college hockey. The headlines weren’t all pretty, though, as Connor Schmidt and Charlie Zuccarini were released from the team on Wednesday.
Their departures differed in reasoning. Schmidt was released for violating team rules, while Zuccarini was let go after a mutual agreement. While neither player had a huge impact statistically, the Sun Devils will dig deeper into their depth to give a couple players more time on the ice. One of those players could be freshman Louie Rowe, who has not played yet this season but did practice on Wednesday.
Heading into the series, the good news for the Sun Devils is that the Bobcats are a step down from the competition they have faced in recent weeks. Although OU is No. 7 in the ACHA poll, the Sun Devils are in the NCAA because of their domination of the competition in the league that is considered a step down from the NCAA. The Sun Devils have played one ACHA game this season, and won 8-1 over the University of Arizona.
However, even if ASU escapes with two wins, they will not count towards the team’s record. The 13 game NCAA losing streak will still be intact no matter what happens in the series.
No matter the significance, Powers would be more than pleased with a win. “It would be huge,” he said. “These kids have to feel good about themselves again because they haven’t done anything wrong. We are looking to put everything that we have done together and showcase it this weekend.”
All signs are pointing to the four game shutout streak snapping pretty early on, although like the losing streak, it won’t officially be snapped.
The lengthiness of the ACHA schedule has led to the Bobcats playing significantly more games than ASU. In 28 contests, OU is 23-4-1.
Upperclassmen forwards Joey Breslin, Michael Harris and Patrick Spellacy are in the team lead in points with 35, 31, and 29 respectively. Nearly every Bobcats player has made a significant contribution to their season. Perhaps nobody has been more valuable to them as goalie Aaron Alkema, who has a 15-3-0 record and a 2.04 goals against average.
The games don’t mean anything in terms of actual record, but for the Bobcats it is a chance to get a statement win over a team in the league above them, while for ASU it is an opportunity to get back on track.
Puck drop will be at 7:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. You can watch both games live here.