(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
After passing its first test as an NCAA team, Arizona State will face stiff competition this weekend in a pair of games in Alaska. The Sun Devils will travel outside of the continental United States to face Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks.
ASU hockey is the first team to play a game in Alaska since the men’s basketball team went in 2010.
“We’re excited to head up to the Great White North tomorrow,” head coach Greg Powers said. “We are thrilled to go up to Alaska and take on an exciting challenge against two NCAA opponents.”
The Sun Devils are coming off of a convincing 8-1 victory against rival University of Arizona. The game was played in front of a large crowd at Gila River Arena, home of the Arizona Coyotes. Despite the rivalry, the game was simply viewed as a tune-up for their slate of games of this weekend, due to Arizona’s ACHA club status.
An encouraging sign for Powers was the elevated play from freshmen. Jordan Masters, who Powers called the player of the game against Arizona, is entering the weekend as the co-leader in points on the team with three. He is tied with fellow freshman Joey Raats, who had three assists against the Wildcats.
“We think Raats is really special,” Powers said. “He is coming in with a lot of confidence and will be a big part of our future.”
The Sun Devils’ two foes this weekend have posted a combined record of 1-1 so far. Alaska Anchorage, who ASU will play on Friday, fell to Mount Royal 1-0. Alaska Fairbanks, also called the Alaska Nanooks, who will host ASU the following day, beat the same opponent by a score of 4-0.
Neither squad is a traditional college hockey powerhouse, as they have just four combined all-time NCAA Tournament appearances between the two of them and just one since 1992. Nevertheless, both teams will be strong tests for the Sun Devils to see how they match up against varsity-level teams.
“We embrace road games,” Powers said. “It’s a great opportunity for a young team to get away from everything and to bond and to mesh together in an opposing arena against an opposing crowd, so we are excited to see how our young guys react to that.”
The Sun Devils will get a boost from Ryan Ostertag this weekend, who played a key role on the national championship team two years ago but has battled injuries since. He missed last Saturday’s game against Arizona as a precaution due to a strained groin.
Regardless of how they fare this weekend, ASU will be able to get its first experience against NCAA teams, which will be a constant on their schedule for years to come.