(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
After a season that spanned over five months, Arizona State will play its final two games of the 2016-2017 season.
The results have been more bad than good for the Sun Devils, but some strong wins have given them confidence going forward.
ASU has defeated two ranked teams, Air Force and Western Michigan, and won shootouts against two others, although those were officially ruled as ties.
Through the trying times, some breakout players have emerged.
One is forward Anthony Croston, who did not really start to take off until the Desert Hockey Classic in December, when he totaled seven assists against St. Cloud State.
Croston ended up finishing tied for the team lead in points (21) with senior Robbie Baillargeon and led the team with 10 goals.
Another has been freshman Brinson Pasichnuk. An offensive-minded defenseman, Pasichnuk has consistently earned playing time on the first line, tallying both seven goals and assists, while making a plethora of contributions that don’t always show up on the stat sheet.
He is expected to be one of the better NHL draft prospects once his Sun Devil career concludes.
The opponent that Croston, Pasichnuk and the rest of the Sun Devil team will face this weekend is the USA U18 team, a squad that the returning players from last season’s team are familiar with.
The teams met up last season in Arizona. Game one was ruled a tie and the U18 team emerged victorious in game two. Like last year, these are exhibition games and will not count for statistics or in the standings.
Top draft picks such as Clayton Keller led the U18 team last season, but now they have some new faces, like leading scorer Josh Norris (39 points) and goalie Dylan St. Cyr. Seven players total have over 30 points for them.
As is normally the case, the U18 team has plenty of players who are already committed to top programs. Boston University and the University of Michigan are the programs with the most, at four commits each.
A notable change for the Sun Devils this week will be the absence of Wade Murphy, who signed a professional contract with the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL. Murphy had tallied nine goals and 11 assists in his first season as a Sun Devil after he transferred from North Dakota.
Despite being short-handed, the Sun Devils will look forward to finishing the season on a high note against some of the best young talent in all of hockey.
The contests will take place in Clarkston, Mich., just outside of Detroit. The first game will be on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST, followed by the finale at 7 p.m on Sunday.