(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
On the road again.
Just a week removed from its first NCAA home series victory, Arizona State will head to Madison, Wis. to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in a two-game series this weekend. The road trip will be the team’s third of the season.
While the team has only played three games at home this season, they have thrived in Arizona. Taking into account the season opener against ACHA rival Arizona, the Devils have scored 24 goals, allowing the opposition to net just four on friendly ice this season.
In contrast, the flagship program has felt the harsh reality that is playing on the road for five of its seven games thus far.
While playing away from home, the Devils are 1-4 and have allowed 17 goals, managing to score just five.
Arizona State has a Badger team waiting, eager to get its first win. It has been all losses and ties early on for the home team, leaving Wisconsin at 0-3-3. While it’s been tough going to this point, head coach Greg Powers still views the opposing team in high regard.
“Wisconsin is really good, they’re a really talented team,” Powers said. “People like to say ‘well, they haven’t won yet, they’re 0-3-3,’ well, two of their losses came were against BU [Boston University] and BC [Boston College] who are elite programs and they have three ties, then a loss by one goal, so they could easily be 4-2.
“They’re talented, they’re really talented.”
The Badgers have placed an emphasis on volume this season, averaging 27 shots per contest through six games. However, the team still struggles to outshoot opponents, doing so just once against Northern Michigan on Oct. 10, a match that ended in a draw. With that being said, the shots will come in bunches and while the up-tempo pace will lead to offensive opportunities, Wisconsin does its damage on the power play.
The team ranks 16th in the nation in power play efficiency, converting on 22 percent of their attempts.
“They’ve got a really good power play, it’s clicking really well for them,” Powers said. “Up front their first two lines are dynamic and they’ll give us our hands full.”
As of late, the Devils have been on a bit of a tear themselves on special teams.
Against SNHU at home, the Devils converted on eight of their 11 power play attempts and rank ninth in the nation in terms of efficiency, capitalizing on nine of 30 opportunities on the season.
Offensively, the Devils will draw the assignment of taking on Wisconsin freshman goaltender Matt Jurusik.
“They have young goaltender, he’s a really talented kid but he’s young,” Powers said. “It’s going to be nice to at least face a freshman goalie.
“But he’s good, he’s really good.”
Jurusik, who has started in five games on the year for the Badgers, comes into the series with a record of 0-2-2 still searching for his first collegiate victory. To this point, he has allowed 18 goals, while stopping 145 attempts good for a .890 save percentage.
With that, the focus shifts to the freshmen of Arizona State who have lived up to the hype and then some in the team’s inaugural season. Specifically, the team will lean on two guys: Joey Raats and Jordan Masters.
Raats, who is tied for the third-most assists (seven) in Division I hockey, has been the catalyst for the Sun Devil offensive attack. At his most effective, Raats has played alongside defenseman Brock Krygier, a duo that Powers does not plan on separating in Madison.
“Joey [Raats] and Brock [Krygier] will stay together, the other two pairs are up in the air,” Powers said. “Those guys have played really well, they all have.”
Masters, who ranks second on the team in points behind Raats with seven, has been an indispensible component of the Arizona State offensive attack with five goals and two assists. However, Masters’ penalties to this point have become a bit of a concern. The freshman forward leads the team with nine minor penalties accounting for a total of 18 minutes.
It’s pivotal that Masters work on limiting the penalties on unfamiliar ice this weekend.
The Devils have a chance to reach the .500 mark in NCAA play for the first time this season, but it will not come easy. However, this team knows that nothing comes easy in the NCAA.
“None of the pressure is on us, we know that,” Powers said. “We need to play that way, be intense and give ourselves a chance to win.”
- Nicholas Gushue was held out of Wednesday’s practice as a precaution. He is expected to play this weekend.
- Connor Schmidt remains suspended for a violation of team rules. Powers plans on reinstating Schmidt against Lake Superior State next weekend.
- Robert Levin did not practice on Wednesday, expect another platoon comprised of David Jacobsen and Ryland Pashovitz against the Badgers.
SUN DEVILS ON THE NCAA LEADERBOARDS:
- Total Points: Joey Raats – 8 (Tied for eighth in Division I hockey), Jordan Masters – 7 (Tied for 21st), Ryan Belonger – 6 (Tied for 44th)
- Assists: Joey Raats – 7 (Tied for third), Jordan Masters – 5 (Tied for 17th)
- Power Play Goals: Cody Gylling and Jack Rowe – 2 (Tied for seventh)
- Goaltending Leaders: Ryland Pashovitz – 2-3 record, .915 save percentage (40th)