(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
If you were to look at Arizona State’s box scores from this weekend without seeing what team they played, you might not have guessed that their opponent was the 20th ranked archrival Arizona Wildcats. The Sun Devils took it to their Tucson counterparts, winning 5-1 on Friday and 6-0 on Saturday.
The Wildcats were the first ranked competition for Arizona State, a team that thrashed two Division II schools in three games by a total score of 33-2.
Skeptics were not sure if this young squad was ready for top-25 competition, never mind their biggest rival. The young guns proved them wrong in their first ever rivalry games, with left wing Chris Burkemper (2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS) and defenseman Alex Temby (1-2-3) leading the way for the freshman.
The veterans showed up as well, led by top line Kale Dolinski (senior; 1-3-4), Liam Norris (junior; 1-2-3) and Danny McAuliffe (senior; 1-1-2).
As much as they proved themselves this weekend, next weekend’s games at Illinois will be the team’s truest test yet. The Illini were ranked fourth in the nation going in to this weekend but dropped two games to Iowa State, lowering their record to 5-2.
This team has yet to play on the road, and their schedule only picks up from there. Following Illinois, Arizona State plays at WCHL foes Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma: two top-15 teams that loom as big time league threats.
The biggest challenge for the Sun Devils might be a battle fought within: the goaltender battle. Senior Joe D’Elia has performed well this year, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.00 goals against average and a .950 save percentage.
D’Elia certainly deserves to get starts, but freshman Robert Levin has made a permanent decision by Coach Greg Powers that much harder. Levin’s stat line: 3-0, 0.40 GAA, .980 SV%. Those last two figures are both top three in the ACHA, and his two shutouts tie him for second.
Powers has assessed Levin as the better goalie in practice, but given D’Elia’s untarnished record against Arizona (now 10-0), Levin had to wait until game two to see time.
In addition, freshman Lucas Felbel has yet to allow a goal in the 30 minutes of time between the pipes for the team’s second game against San Diego State. Felbel sat out practice this week and did not dress this weekend due to a cold, but once he suits up the three-man race will continue.
There is one game in particular to circle on your calendars. On Thursday, November 7, No. 1 Minot State comes to Tempe. With every upcoming weekend, this game will draw more and more interest.
Arizona State’s schedule over the next month is tough already; six of their next 11 games are against fellow WCHL teams and another four are against top-10 squads. After all that, there’s potential for a matchup to determine the number one team in the nation.
For now, the Sun Devils can celebrate their continued dominance of Arizona, which does not look like it will end anytime soon.
You can reach Greg Cameron on Twitter @GregCameron8 or at Gregory.firstname.lastname@example.org