(Photo: Tyler Paley/WCSN)
Coming off of a two game split in exhibition games against the University of Alberta, the Arizona State hockey team will go back to its regular season schedule to face Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.
The Sun Devils gained valuable experience against an older and tougher Alberta team at the home rink of Oceanside Ice Arena, taking the Golden Bears to a pair of shootouts that were ultimately ruled as ties, even though the Sun Devils won one of them.
A big storyline heading into the weekend will be the health of Ryland Pashovitz, who did not play last week. ASU head coach Greg Powers said that Pashovitz had been ill during the week leading up to the games against Alberta. Robert Levin and David Jacobson earned starts in his place. While both filled in admirably, getting “Pash” back would be a huge boost for ASU.
The Sun Devils would also like to carry over their late game dramatics from their series against Alberta. Ryan Belonger scored a goal with 14 seconds remaining in regulation of game one before ASU won the shootout, which gave the team a huge confidence boost that may last throughout the whole rest of the season.
RPI will be no easy task to go against, though. The team boasts a 8-6-3 record coming into the game, and the Engineers are 4-2-2 at home.
RPI has played two of the same teams that the Sun Devils have this year. The Engineers lost to Alaska Fairbanks, who the Sun Devils beat, and tied Clarkson, who swept ASU in their two game series.
The Engineers have been on a bit of a slide as of late though, losing or tying in their last three games. However, they had won seven of nine games before that streak.
Forward Riley Bourbonnais and defenseman Mike Prapavessis lead the Engineers in points this season. Bourbonnais has far and away been the star sniper for the team, having scored three more goals than the next highest player.
Unlike the Sun Devils, this is a very experienced RPI team. Forward Evan Tironese is the only freshman with more than four points this season for RPI.
Goalie play has also been a big reason for the Engineers’ success. Senior Jason Kasdorf, who was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, and freshman Cam Hackett have split time nearly evenly this season. Kasdorf has the better save percentage (.937), but Hackett has the better record of the two (5-2-2). Expect each to get a start this weekend.
The two games against RPI could be a turning point one way or the other for ASU this weekend. With an increasingly tough schedule coming up, dropping both games would severely hamper their chances of reaching the .500 mark that the team has set as a goal for themselves.
Since the Sun Devils are playing on the other side of the country, they will have a 5:00 p.m. start time for both of the games.