(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
New year, same storyline for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
The team will play its fifth road series since Nov. 13 in St. Cloud, Minn. when the Sun Devils take on the St. Cloud State Huskies at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center this weekend.
Since sweeping Lake Superior State on Nov. 14, the Devils have yet to win a road game, going 0-6-0 in that span.
To make matters worse, they have been outscored 25-6 in that span.
It won’t get much easier for Greg Powers’ team this week in St. Cloud. The Huskies enter the series as the No. 5 team in the nation, per the USCHO poll. If last week was any indication, the team could be riding an eight-game losing streak when they limp back to Tempe on Tuesday.
Arizona State struggled with a Jake Guentzel-less Nebraska-Omaha team, losing both games by a combined eight-goal margin in the Dec. 19-20 series.
While Guenztel only sat out of the Dec. 19 contest, his absence didn’t have any effect on the final result.
For the Devils, the penalty kill was inconsistent in Omaha; the Mavericks were held to zero power play goals on Sunday, but were able to amass three power play goals in the Saturday matchup. The display from the second game will have to carry over into this weekend’s series if the Devils want to keep things close.
In a season where success has been measured by subtle strides, the next step will have to be a more consistent presence on special teams. St. Cloud State will be a test, but the Huskies ability to execute on the power play will be lead to a more accurate representation of where this team is in terms of progression.
Between both teams, there will be no shortage of offensive firepower on the ice at any given time.
Both teams boast a combined six of the top 50 scorers in the nation. Jordan Masters is Arizona State’s lone representative among the six, the other five belong to St. Cloud State.
Simply put, the Sun Devils will have their hands full on defense with a team that averages 4.28 goals per contest. The key will be trying to limit the Huskies’ potent attack.
The Devils have yet another monumental test before them this weekend. While they have struggled in terms of wins and losses this season, the team that has played the role of sponge has already soaked up a significant amount of experience vital to being a competitive program in the future.
In perhaps the biggest test of the season, Arizona State will need to put some of the experience to good use.
Puck drop is at 6:37 p.m. Friday and 6:07 p.m. Saturday (both Arizona time).