(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
At this point in the season, ASU hockey head coach Greg Powers isn’t as focused on his team adapting to the NCAA or trying to stay afloat with the more seasoned teams Division I hockey has to offer.
When Clarkson University hosts the Sun Devils in New York this weekend, it won’t just be about combating the Golden Knights on the ice; they will be focused on themselves as well.
“We’ve really geared everything these last three to four weeks to focusing on us,” Powers said. “We certainly have pre-scouted them; they do a lot of things really well. They’re a very good team, they’re old, they’re experienced and they’re well-coached.
“But we want to focus on us and continue to do what we do: out-compete and play every shift. We know if we do that we’re going to give ourselves a chance.”
Arizona State, fresh off of its first ever Division I sweep over Lake Superior State two weeks ago, will have a chance to win four of its past six road games if they can pick up where they left off in Sault Ste. Marie.
So far, the Sun Devils have struggled on the road, losing six of their nine games away from the desert.
According to Powers, the emphasis has been placed on dictating the tempo of the series early on.
“One of our team goals on the year is to own every Friday,” Powers said. “We hadn’t done that at all going into Lake [Superior] State, so our guys now understand the importance of owning Fridays and trying to get a win in that first game and playing downhill the rest of the weekend. So we’re focused on Friday and whatever happens Friday we will take whatever approach we need to going into Saturday.”
For Clarkson, getting A.J. Fossen going early will be pivotal. Through 11 games this season, Fossen leads the Golden Knights with five goals and has amassed seven total points. Jordan Bucher will almost certainly be in the fold this weekend as well; he leads the team in points with nine, six of which have come in the form of assists.
The Clarkson offense has averaged a total of 2.64 goals per game. Arizona State’s average is also 2.64.
Clarkson and Arizona State enter the series tied for 34th in the nation for offensive efficiency. Therefore, it’s going to come down to the defense and goaltending of each team to gain an edge. Dictating the tempo of the defense will be the difference-maker this weekend.
While Clarkson allows lower goals per game on average (2.55), Arizona State could have a significant boost between the pipes this weekend.
Robert Levin has missed the last seven games with an ankle injury; however, it seems as though his ailment is behind him.
“He’s full, he’s back,” Powers said. “He’s ready to go, he’s finally ready to go. I think it really benefited him that we had two off weeks built into the last month so those have helped him prepare and he’s ready to go.”
While Powers said Ryland Pashovitz will start in net on Friday, don’t rule Levin out for Saturday’s game.
“The last week or two of practice Rob has been really good, he looks like he’s back and then some, he’s been dynamite. It’s nice to have three really good goalies, like I said, and DJ [David Jacobson] looks good too, ” Powers said. “Pash will go Friday obviously because he’s earned that opportunity through his play, and we will just take it game to game.
“That’s the luxury you have as a coach when you have depth at a really important position, which we do.”
The goalie situation will be something to keep an eye on moving forward; however, don’t expect the lines to change much after the LSSU sweep.
“The lines are going to be the same, really as they were at Lake Superior State,” Powers said. “We just swept there, so it’s going to be hard to change too much. We tweaked the power plays a little bit to get some more production hopefully, but for the most part, what we went with at Lake State will be what we go with at Clarkson.”
This weekend, the Arizona State Sun Devils will have a chance to get above .500 for the first time as a Division I program.
Puck drop is at 5 p.m. Arizona time on Friday and Saturday in Potsdam, N.Y.