(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
When you consider the busy weekends that Arizona State has incurred, having a lone game on Friday will be a breather.
When you consider the quality of opponent that the Sun Devils will face, this Friday’s contest is as treacherous as it gets for the youthful squad.
That opponent is the Michigan Wolverines, who have been uncharacteristically disappointing in 2016. Yet, they are a storied hockey program, essentially on the complete opposite side of the spectrum as an ASU team that is trying to set a standard for years to come through building a program from the ground up.
Rebuilding is not on the to-do list for the Wolverines, who made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012 last season and have made the Frozen Four as recently as 2011.
Through all of that, the eight-time national champion’s record stands at a middling 3-3-1. Not only that, but UM is ice-cold heading into this weekend. The Wolverines have lost their last two games to unranked Dartmouth and No. 19 Vermont. Before that, they settled for a tie against Michigan Tech.
They do, however, have a win this season over No. 20 Union. The Wolverines’ schedule has been tough, but arguably not quite as burdensome as that of ASU.
It’s the final contest of nine straight games that the Sun Devils have against ranked teams. The best-case scenario for them is that they come out with wins in two of those contests, despite all around better play than last season.
Right now it looks like the ASU offense runs through one player, graduate transfer Robbie Baillargeon. The three-year Boston University player is one of the few with experience on the NCAA big stage, and it is showing.
He has scored the last five ASU goals and six of the last seven, dating back to the Sun Devils’ series against Air Force. Baillargeon has provided a huge boost to a team that has been outscored 24-4 over its last four games.
Those 24 goals allowed aren’t ideal, and while the Sun Devils possess three capable goalies, nobody has taken the reigns as a proven, consistent starter.
Based off of what the media was able to view at this week of practice, it appeared as though Robert Levin would get the nod, but head coach Greg Powers did not elaborate when asked who his starter would be.
Michigan has started two players, Hayden Lavigne and Jack LaFontaine, three different times a piece in goal, and has a balanced scoring attack led by freshmen Jake Slaker and Will Lockwood.
Even though they aren’t the same team that they have been in years past, UM is no slouch, but present a prime upset opportunity for a Sun Devil team that is in desperate need of one.