After falling to Lindenwood in the Final Four of last year’s ACHA National Tournament, the Arizona State hockey team enters the 2013-14 season with a goal of bringing a national championship to Tempe. They have a strong chance of fulfilling those expectations after giving them a B- in terms of their strength of schedule.
The Sun Devils will play 36 games during the regular season starting on September 20th at Oceanside Ice Arena. Twenty two of the Sun Devils’ 36 games are at home, which will give them an advantage all season as they wont have to travel week in and week out. The Sun Devils also play great at home as last year they went 21-3 during the regular season.
The Sun Devils open the season at home for their first five games. Their first three games should be easy wins as they face two division II teams, San Diego State and Weber State, before facing Arizona.
Despite playing so many games at home, the hardest series for ASU may be in Champaign, Illinois against the Fighting Illini, whom the maroon and gold defeated in the quarterfinals in the playoffs.
With the new Western Collegiate Hockey League (WCHL) starting this upcoming year, the Sun Devils will play 16 games against WCHL opponents. The other five teams in the WCHL are the University of Arizona, University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma, University of Colorado, and Colorado State University. Besides the Sun Devils, only Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma made the ACHA Tournament last year.
Three series that stood out are when Arizona State hosts the defending national champion Minot State Beavers on November 7th, the Illinois road trip in mid-October, and their eight games against the Wildcats. The Minot State game will probably be the game of the year for the Sun Devils as they welcome the defending champs to Tempe and I expect Oceanside to be packed.
The Beavers return their top four goal scorers led by Michael Jordan and Logan Herauf, who each had 23 goals last year. They also have perhaps the best goaltending duo in the nation and with ASU’s offensive firepower, this matchup could decide the outcome of the game.
After playing their first five games at home, the Sun Devils will travel to the Midwest to face Illinois. Illinois went 22-12 last season and finished third in the tough CSCHL division last year (four of the six teams in the division made the playoffs.) They return three of their top four point scorers and their starting goaltender. ASU will look to its veteran leadership of Colin Hekle and Kale Dolinski to lead them against Illinois, who will have revenge on their minds after being knocked out by the Sun Devils in the national tournament.
Every one of the ASU versus U of A games is intense considering both schools hate each other. The Wildcats have lost 32 straight games to the Sun Devils and will look to end the embarrassing streak. Andrew Murmes led the Wildcats in points with 48 last year and will look to lead the Wildcats to an upset.
The Sun Devils 2013-14 schedule is set up for them to be successful but if the Sun Devils look ahead to their big matchups and don’t focus on every game, they could find themselves being upset.
You can reach Julian Lopez on Twitter @JuliansDayOff22 or by email email@example.com