The University of Arizona Wildcats travel to Tempe this weekend in hopes of ending their 28 game losing streak against Arizona State.
This will be the Sun Devils’ last home series played at Oceanside Arena this season and it couldn’t be a more intense rivalry.
For the Wildcats, it’s crunch time. They are on the brink of making the 2012-2013 National Tournament and every game for the rest of the season will weight heavily on their fate. As for the Sun Devils, they have come out of a recent slump and began to regain their “swagger.”
Many key players returned to the lineup, including forwards Faiz Khan and Dan Styrna, who make up the first line with Captain Colin Hekle. The three talented skaters can be referred to as ‘the Golden Line.’
During the maroon and gold’s last series, where they shut out Rhode Island, the three combined for 11 total points. Not to mention that this was their first shut out since Central Oklahoma on November 15th.
Head Coach Greg Powers mentioned during a press conference Wednesday night that “the Hekle, Khan, and Styrna line is not being touched, it is cemented.”
Besides looking out for the Sun Devils’ offense, the new defensive pairings seem to be doing wonders. Last weekend, Goaltender Joe D’Elia only had to face 38 shots during the entire two-game series. An obstacle that will face both teams this weekend will be penalties.
Wildcat forward Brian Slugocki leads the team with 11 power play goals, to add to his 23 goals on the season. Therefore, this will be the guy that the Sun Devils do not want to see when on the penalty kill. The University of Arizona also has an outlandish amount of penalty minutes with 602. The Sun Devils have only accumulated 383.
Arizona forward Michael Ferreira, who caused chaos for the maroon and gold earlier this season, has 94 minutes worth himself. In the last seven games he has played, Ferreira has been in the box each and every time.
This is important because rivalry games usually get heated and this weekend should be no different.
The Wildcats are going to need to play both a disciplined and physical game to upset ASU and end their losing streak. The Oklahoma schools were successful in beating the Sun Devils because they attacked the offense zone and played a gritty style. The Wildcats will need to do that this weekend.
As for ASU, they can expect to see multiple power play opportunities. With the season winding down, UofA has an increased demand for a victory, which will add to the already violent atmosphere of a rivalry. As long as the maroon and gold can keep the Wildcats in check and stress their defense, the depth of ASU will shine through.
The bottom line is discipline. Both of these teams can skate for 60 minutes, the key is in mental toughness. As in, not letting the rival team get under your skin.
This will also be the last home game played at Oceanside Arena for seniors Dan Styrna, Darcy Charrois, Brian Parson, Ryan Clark, Phil Sansone, Brett Prechel and Dan Anderson.
I would like to give a quick shout out to all of the senior players, who contribute greatly to the Sun Devil team. Ryan Clark is tied with Colin Hekle for a team-leading plus-42 rating on the year, which is simply unheard of. Brian Parson’s stay at home-style defense has been a huge asset to the maroon and gold’s goaltending and Charrois has found his offense as of late, and that’s just mentioning a few.
The puck drops at 8:00pm Friday night and 7:30pm Saturday night, and trust me this is certainly one you do not want to miss!