(Photo: Amanda Luberto/WCSN)
The Arizona State Division II Elite team showed a little bit of everything in a two game sweep of San Diego State at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils were aggressive, resilient, opportunistic and mistake prone as they blew out the Aztecs 7-1 on Friday and came from behind to win on Saturday 6-5. While they improved their record to 5-1, some recurring trends became even more noticeable for the Sun Devils, both good and bad.
The offense can score, obviously. 13 goals in two games and a 5.5 goal per game average for the season are impressive numbers. However, the Sun Devils proved that when and how goals are scored is just as important as how many are scored. In the first game, the goals came in bunches as the Sun Devils netted 5 in the second period. In game two, timely scoring kept them in the game until late in the third period, when ASU would take the lead and hold on for the win. The ability to score in a variety of ways is a huge advantage going forward and the offense still has a lot of potential to be even better.
Arizona State’s defense was also strong. By attacking and putting pressure on the puck, the Aztecs struggled all series to put shots on goal. The defense seemed to get even better when the Sun Devils were shorthanded, as they killed all but one SDSU power play and scored two shorthanded goals. A little more consistency is needed at times, but overall the Sun Devils have a very good defense and an excellent goalie in Kyle Dietriech.
Earlier, it was mentioned that the Sun Devil offense has the potential to be better, and it does. In order for this to happen, players have to stop standing and watching the puck, expecting someone else to make a play. The way this team is set up, there is no ‘go to guy.’ The man there, at that moment, is expected to step up and make a play. There were times when this happened, most notably when Charles Edson came off the bench early in the third period and tied game two in only his second game of the season. However, it needs to happen more. ASU had opportunities to score a lot more but did not because of this hesitation.
Another thing hurting the offense, and the defense as well, is penalties. While the number of penalties ASU committed has gone down compared to previous weeks, they still had too many, leaving the door open for SDSU to capitalize. The penalties in this series appeared to be out of frustration. Game one got physical in the third period and carried over into game two. Coda Engbar was disqualified from game two in the second period for trying to kick another player out of frustration. The Sun Devils got away with it this time and penalty killing has been one of their strengths — but we all know the old adage about playing with fire.
Lastly, the Sun Devils goalie situation must get better. Kyle Dietriech has been solid so far this season, giving up only 7 goals in six games. However, he cannot play every single game and backup goalie Corey Frank has struggled. After giving up 6 goals to NAU, Frank gave up 4 goals in game two to the Aztecs and was benched before the third period for Dietriech. Now, Frank does not deserve all the blame here. The other Sun Devil players seem to play better defense when Dietriech is playing. Either way, it is an issue that will have to be solved quickly.
Arizona State hosts California State- Long Beach for two games next weekend. The Sun Devils are expected to win both games, but the main goal should be improving as it will be their last home series until January 11, 2014.
Game one starts at 7:30 on Friday, October 18 at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
You can reach Matt Harden on Twitter @MattHarden_ or at email@example.com