(Photo: Tyler Paley/WCSN)
It won’t take long for Arizona State to face its first big test of the 2016 season.
The Sun Devils will open their second NCAA season on the road against No. 9 Notre Dame in South Bend this weekend, an opponent that ASU head coach Greg Powers admits will be one of the toughest his team will face all season.
“They’re just a deep [team], they’re deep at every position,” Powers said. “Speed, they’ve got a great goaltender, some really, really gifted defensemen that like to activate and can do it at both ends and certainly they have a couple of world-class forwards, you know, that are going to be NHL players. There’s a reason they’re a top-10 team and they’re probably better than a top-10 team, to be honest.”
WATCH THE FULL PRESS CONFERENCE HERE
From a preparation standpoint, Powers has placed a high emphasis on preparing the new additions for the rigors of an NCAA schedule.
While most of the veteran players on the roster only have one season of NCAA experience under their belts, the second-year coach is still happy with his team’s progression.
“They’ve done a great job,” Powers said. “We’ve scrimmaged a ton and tried to simulate as best we can game speed and we had a really good inter-squad game Saturday night and everyone looked good. Just getting those guys up to speed has been one of our main focuses.”
Freshman forward Tyler Busch missed last Saturday’s Maroon and Gold scrimmage with an injury. Powers says that he will make the trip to South Bend and he is fully recovered from the ailment.
“He had an injury, he was not medically cleared yet,” Powers said. “He is now medically cleared and he’ll be at Notre Dame.”
Between the pipes, Powers has said that Robert Levin and Joey Daccord will both make the trip for the two-game tilt. Ryland Pashovitz, however, will not be suiting up against the Irish.
“We’ll play it by ear,” Powers said regarding the team’s starting goaltender. “Both [Levin and Daccord] we believe are very capable of helping us win out there and we’ll see who’s in on Friday.”
In terms of strategy, Powers has focused quite a bit on his special teams unit. He mentioned that he was pleased with what he saw from his group on Saturday and continued to work with them in practice today.
Little surprise should be expected in that regard, as he plans to deploy a group similar to Saturday’s units.
“I think so,” Powers said. “We focused more than half of our skate today was special teams, detail on the penalty kill and certainly getting or units more chemistry together but they did some good things on Saturday night and they looked a lot better today.”
Given all of the team’s additions and the new experience of the returners, Powers expects a competitive team in his second year at the helm.
“We’re starting out with a bang,” he said. “Our guys are in a good state of mind and we’re going there [to Notre Dame] to compete.”