(Photo: Amanda Luberto/WCSN)
The Arizona State hockey team returns to Oceanside Ice Arena this weekend on a very high note, and they must be happy to be staying at home for 11 straight games.
Following a successful and eventful Midwest road trip which saw the team advance to 10-0-0, the No. 2 Sun Devils will host Delaware on Thursday and Friday night, and then Northern Arizona on Saturday night.
Coach Greg Powers returns home with a 101-20-8 record, as Powers earned his 100th victory at the helm of the Sun Devils on Friday night in a 4-2 win over No. 11 Central Oklahoma. A bonus: Powers reached the milestone with five of his players (Colin Hekle, Brett Prechel, Danny McAuliffe, Troy Scott and David Jantzie). Arizona State has enjoyed the success in the Powers Era in many visible ways, seen primary through their excellent recruitment record and wise coaching decisions.
The team’s first opponent, the No. 7 University of Delaware Blue Hens, boast a 8-1-0 record. The Blue Hens’ first loss came last Sunday to Robert Morris (IL), a team that is considered by many to be a top three team in the ACHA and one that ASU will not face during the regular season. Delaware placed second in the ACHA National Showcase two weekends ago in Strongville, Ohio.
This is a team that was ACHA Champion two years ago, and they are Arizona State’s toughest home test yet. They are a team with the potential to run up the score, having notched six goals or more three times this season. However, as we have seen in Arizona State’s recent games, better opponents lead to lower-scoring games (for Sun Devils standards), like in their last two wins against No. 11 Central Oklahoma. Those two games ended with scores of 4-2 and 4-1. These two games will showcase offensive talent, and the Sun Devils should walk out with two wins, no matter who the starting goaltender may be.
The Division 2 Northern Arizona University Ice Jacks (6-3-0) come to Tempe after Delaware leaves, and like past games against D2 schools, this shouldn’t be a problem. The Ice Jacks play the Arizona Wildcats the day before for a third time; the first two games in late September resulted in two Wildcat wins by scores of 5-1 and 5-3. They have also matched up against the Sun Devils DII squad, splitting a two-game series with a 6-5 win and a 4-2 loss.
The biggest thing to look for this weekend will be how Arizona State plays without nine of their senior leaders. The nine players, who have not been named, missed a team workout on Monday, resulting in a one-game suspension for each player. Arizona State certainly has the depth to overlook any major issues, but the players who have not been seeing ice time will have to adjust to the No. 7 Blue Hens quickly.
The games start on Thursday at 8 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
You can reach Greg Cameron on Twitter @GregCameron8 or at Gregory.firstname.lastname@example.org