(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
This weekend will involve Arizona State facing a foe in which they have a lot in common with: Its NCAA predecessor Penn State.
Besides the Sun Devils, the Nittany Lions were the last team to make the jump from ACHA to the NCAA, doing so in the 2012-2013 season.
Their transition was met with more immediate success than ASU’s, and it is something that has carried into last season as well as this one. They are currently ranked No. 10 in the country and sport a 9-1-1 record. In fact, their only loss was against then No. 16 St. Lawrence.
Last season, they were 21-13-4 overall and finished 3rd in a difficult Big Ten conference.
A big reason for their success has been head coach Guy Gadowsky. Although he has only a 60-68-10 record as the Nittany Lions head coach, a lot of those losses were due to having an inexperienced NCAA team and lack of overall talent compared to the rest of the country, much like why the Sun Devils are going through their current struggles.
The product that he has put forward in his fifth season is something that ASU can model themselves afterwards, as having the same luck the Nittany Lions have had will work in the Sun Devils favor.
ASU is coming off of a weekend in which they split their two games. It was arguably their strongest showing of any weekend all season. The loss came by just two goals to No. 3 Boston College, although it was a one-goal game for the majority of the contest.
The real heroics came on Saturday against New Hampshire. The sticks of Jakob Stridsberg and Brinson Pasichnuk provided clutch goals as ASU nearly escaped defeat. Stridsberg tied the game with a minute and a half in the third period and the younger Pasichnuk won it in overtime with his second goal of the game.
While it was an impressive overall showing against the Wildcats, the biggest boost of the weekend was the sudden return of sophomore forward Jordan Masters. He was suspended for the first nine games for a violation of team rules, and the Hobey Baker Award nominee and last season’s leading scorer provided an immediate lift to ASU’s offense. He scored a goal in each of the two games he played in last weekend.
Masters figures to be an instrumental part of the offense going forward.
In what has become the norm for them, the Nittany Lions finished last weekend undefeated in their two games. They outscored Alaska Anchorage 9-4. Senior David Goodwin, a trendsetter and four year star for the program, became the first Nittany Lion to register 100 career points. He is currently second on the team with 11 points, behind only Russian born Denis Smirnov, who has 17.
Underclassmen Nate Sucese, Kris Myllari, and Chase Berger each had two goals over the weekend.
As expected with a successful team, PSU has their goalie situation in good shape. Peyton Jones has started all but two games and is allowing fewer than two goals per game.
The Sun Devils, on the other hand, continue to have a revolving door in net. Senior Robert Levin and freshman Joey Daccord were the starters this weekend and have received the majority of the looks during the season. Outside of an occasional Ryland Pashovitz start, it seems as if Greg Powers will be going with primarily those two in the immediate future.
Because of the commonalities between the two, it seemed to be only a matter of time before they faced off against each other. Much like many of their other road games, the Sun Devils will use these games to spread knowledge of their program from the West Coast to the East.
The two newest NCAA hockey teams will play on Friday and Saturday in University Park as part of a string of 10 straight home games for PSU. Puck drop is at 5:00 MST for the opener and 1:00 MST for the second contest.