(Photo: Tyler Paley/WCSN)
History will be made on Tuesday at Oceanside Ice Arena as the Arizona State Sun Devils will play their first Division I home game. The opponent will be the Connecticut Huskies, who are struggling almost as bad as the Sun Devils as of late. UCONN carries a 5-12-1 record into the game, not much better than ASU’s 5-14-0 mark.
The Sun Devils will come in to this game in desperate need of a win, having lost their last eight NCAA games. On top of that, they have just seven goals in those eight games while having allowed 38.
ASU recently lost a pair to the best team it has faced all season, No. 5 St. Cloud State. Garrett Peterson scored the lone goal in the two games series, in which ASU was outscored 13-1. With all their recent struggles, the Sun Devils, who have won just three games against Division I opponents, seem due for a win sometime soon.
Besides their goal scoring issues, another thing working against the Sun Devils is that they lost to the Huskies 5-1 when the two teams met in Hartford, Conn. earlier in the season. While both teams have undergone changes since the teams met on Oct. 16, Connecticut will enter with the confidence that it can beat ASU, while the Sun Devils will have revenge on their minds.
Because production is down across the board, Jordan Masters remains the top scorer, with six goals and 17 points. In fact, the Sun Devils top three leaders in points are all freshmen, with Joey Raats and Joe Lappin making up the rest of the leaderboard.
Despite their woes, the Huskies have been able to score at a respectable pace. They are led offensively by Max Letunov (8-12-20) and Tage Thompson (7-7-14), both of whom are also freshmen. David Drake and Johnny Austin have been standouts on defense, with 24 and 23 blocked shots this season, respectively.
The goalie situation for UConn has been far more stable than that of the Sun Devils. Rob Nichols has played in all but one game, averaging slightly over three goals allowed per game. Backups Steve Thulin and Tanner Creel have played in just one game apiece.
ASU’s goalie situation continues to change, with all three goalies receiving playing time in the team’s last two games. Ryland Pashovitz still has the starter label, but head coach Greg Powers has been rotating him in and out with David Jacobson and Robert Levin.
With a winnable game staring them in the eyes, the Sun Devils will need to take advantage of the opportunity, because they will be playing No. 12 Yale in the Desert Hockey Classic on Friday before either playing Michigan Tech, who is on the cusp of being ranked, or the Huskies once again.
The phrase “New year, new Sun Devils” has not taken full effect yet, but ASU will have a prime opportunity to leave their struggles in 2015 starting on Tuesday.
Puck drop at Oceanside will be at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time.