(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
The Connecticut Huskies are a team that the Arizona State Sun Devils have become all too familiar with. They have played them three times, which is more than any other team on the Sun Devils’ schedule. However, lingering scoring issues have been ASU’s downfall every time the teams have met.
Those issues took center stage in the Desert Hockey Classic, in which ASU had to settle for last place after losing two shutouts 4-0 and 3-0. Just a few days beforehand, they were beat 5-2 at home against the Huskies.
ASU head coach Greg Powers took some positives away from the tournament, even though it didn’t go the Sun Devils way.
“It was nice to play at home without having to worry about getting on a plane,” he said. “It will hopefully keep us a little fresher next week when going to Bemidji. Every game you get we have to use as valuable experience going forward.”
The Sun Devils have scored a combined three goals in their three games against the Huskies. They have also scored just six goals in their last nine games. On top of that, ASU has been shut out three times in their last five games. No matter how well their goalie plays, whether it be Ryland Pashovitz, Robert Levin or David Jacobson, it is tough for them to come away with a win because they simply can’t score.
Powers was very frank when asked about his team’s struggles. “We just don’t have the talent yet,” he said. “We have a bunch of good, hard-working kids, but at this level it is hard to score. We are just missing those two or three elite kids. That is the difference. We have to figure out ways to generate more offense.”
Pashovitz gave them a valiant effort in the final game against the Huskies, but his 23-save game was all for naught because ASU never found the back of the net. Senior captain Jordan Young called Pashovitz “the best player on the team.”
Looking at individual player scoring stats, Jordan Masters is practically carrying the team. His eight goals far and away lead the team. The next highest amount of goals by a player on the ASU team is three. The lack of production from anyone outside the freshman forward has caused the Sun Devils to lean on Masters heavily when in need of a goal.
Veterans such as Garrett Peterson, Ryan Ostertag and Ryan Belonger have been crucial with their leadership, but have been underwhelming as secondary scoring options alongside Masters.
While it is fair to make the point that the elevated competition has made the adjustment a slow one for ASU, the production drop of late adds an extra level to the concern. It wasn’t too long ago that the Sun Devils record was at 5-6-0 and the team was toeing the .500 line. Now, an 11 game losing streak has turned them into a team searching desperately for answers.
The power play has not been kind to the Sun Devils either. After peaking on special teams during their two game series against Southern New Hampshire, ASU finds themselves at just 15-91 (.165) on the power play. For reference, their opponents are at a .260 conversion percentage on just nine more chances.
ASU has also had their problems generating shots on the power play, taking only 96 total, which is an average of just over one per power play.
There is no doubt that the ASU has grown as a team because of its abundance of games against some of the top teams in the NCAA. However, the team’s struggles on the offensive side of the puck cannot be ignored.
The Sun Devils issues have started to catch up to them after an overachieving start to the season. If they do not turn it around in a timely matter, it could be a tough finish to their first season in the NCAA.