(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
After a tumultuous first year that had the Arizona State Sun Devils post a 5-22-2 record and saw multiple players leave the team, ASU will wrap up the 2015-16 season with two home exhibition games against U.S. U18 National Team. Facing a squad that features alums such as Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad and Jack Eichel, the Sun Devils will get one final test before the offseason begins.
With a lot to build on for the 2016-17 season, head coach Greg Powers and his team has laid off their tough schedule consisting of powerhouses such as Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State and UMass Lowell. The two games will be nothing more than practice games for the Sun Devils, but coming off a pair of exhibition game successes, they will absolutely want to finish the season strong.
It has been 132 minutes since ASU goalies, specifically Robert Levin and David Jacobson, have last allowed a puck find the back of the net. In a reversal of the final NCAA games, the Sun Devils have been immortal in their last two games, which have both been against ACHA opponents. They are coming off a 7-0 win over Liberty and a 6-0 victory against rival Arizona, the last of their meetings against the Wildcats until the off chance happens that the Arizona moves to Division I.
The U.S. U18 team is a bit more of a mystery to ASU than recent opponents Liberty and Arizona were, just because the Sun Devils are more familiar with the ACHA style of play than they are against a team consisting of players who have not yet begun college.
However, the team contains players who have impressed at the early stages of their careers. Schools such as Boston University, Boston College, the University of Michigan and even Harvard have received commitments from players on the National Team.
Its schedule has been a mix of games against other NCAA schools and USHL teams. So far, its record is an impressive 32-9-1, which is an even tougher feat considering their schedule. With victories over schools such as the aforementioned St. Cloud State and Boston University, the Sun Devils will have their work cut out for them this weekend.
Due to their success, the National Team has had players put up numbers that look straight out of a video game. One standout, Clayton Keller, has 80 points in 44 games. Kieffer Bellows leads the team with 36 goals in 45 games, and has 60 total points. Both players are committed to BU.
In net, the production has been nearly even between their two goaltenders, Jake Oettinger and Joseph Woll. Oettinger has played five more games and has four more wins, but his .903 save percentage is inferior to Woll’s .920.
For a Sun Devil team that had trouble scoring against NCAA teams, ASU’s work will not be easy this weekend, no matter which player is in goal.
Playing in their final game at both Oceanside Ice Arena and Gila River Arena for the year, ASU will get an appropriate send-off from their fans, who have a lot to look forward to from this team in the future.