(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
After a physical series with Niagara, the Sun Devils have the chance to refine and improve their game with an upcoming weekend matchup against the unranked West Chester Golden Rams. Coach Greg Powers has been playing around with different match-ups, calling himself a “mad scientist”, and seeing who will work best together.
“You have to approach every game like the other team is, you have to match their intensity,” said Powers. “If you don’t, and you give them hope, then that’s a dangerous thing.”
Tweaking of the blue line was a focus in practice this week. While ASU was able to find the back of the net, Powers said the team needs to be more defensively responsible.
“You have to pride yourself on not getting scored on… and if you’re not going to take care of our end first and have that approach, then you’re not going to stay together,” he said.
Allowing six goals over the weekend, 2013-2014 ACHA Rookie of the Year Robert Levin did not look like the award-winning goalie from last year. Powers asserted that he had a really great practice this week and he’ll be fine for the upcoming series.
“He’s so mentally confident as to how he works, how he approaches his game, and how he works hard to constantly become a better goalie,” Powers said. “I expect to see a much sharper guy in the net.”
While there were defensive struggles, the Ostertag-Norris-Blessing line was the top producer during the Niagara series. However, due to an undisclosed injury, Ryan Ostertag will not play this weekend.
With the possibility of moving Ryan Belonger up to the first line and Chris Blessing to the second, there will be improved puck protection for the Sun Devils and even more discipline against opponents’ chippiness. Belonger was given the responsibility of defending the puck at Northeastern University, so he has been trying to feel his way through “the Sun Devil way of playing” and adapt to his new role as an offensive threat.
The Golden Rams were just 11-18-4 last year, but don’t expect this game to be easy for the Sun Devils. West Chester has added a new head coach, Bill Swahl, and plenty of young talent.
While Friday’s game may be reminiscent of the Sun Devils third period dominance over Niagara ASU needs to make sure to seal the deal on Saturday night as well.
“[On Saturday] they’ll make adjustments, they’ll look at film, they’ll settle in. I expect some absolute battles,” said Powers.
The puck drops at 7:30 MST on Friday and Saturday at Oceanside Arena. Catch the the live broadcast at http://www.cronkitesports.com/live-broadcasts.