ASU hockey facing tough road aheadPosted: Updated:
On the ninth week, they rested.
Arizona State's hockey team had about as great a start to the season as they could have imagined.
The Sun Devils won all 19 games they played, including signature wins such as a victory No. 1 Minot State, an overtime thriller on the road against third-ranked Oklahoma, and a series sweep over Arizona to extend the winning streak over the Wildcats to 34. That success has ASU back on top, ranked the clear No. 1 in the current ACHA Top 25 rankings.
Individually, several players are having outstanding seasons. Kale Dolinski is the ACHA's leading scorer, while goalie Robert Levin is leading the league in most major netminding categories. Their performances earned each the ACHA Player of the Month and Goalie of the Month honors for October.
While ASU enjoys a much deserved two week break until their return to action, the road ahead is anything but easy.
There are 17 games left on the team's regular season schedule, with nine coming on the road. The Sun Devils had just five of their first 19 games away from Tempe, so the road mettle of the team will be tested.
While playing outside the friendly confines of Oceanside Ice Arena will present its own challenge, the caliber of opposition will do the Sun Devils no favors.
Of the seven remaining opponents, all but Colorado are currently ranked in the ACHA's Top 25, and even the Buffaloes gave ASU a serious challenge in their earlier meeting this season.
The topped-rated ASU defense will face some elite offenses in their games against Central Oklahoma (2nd ranked offense) and Liberty (4th), while Oklahoma (13th) is capable of scoring goals in bunches.
Yet it's the quality of defenses ahead that pose more of a threat for the Sun Devils' undefeated aspirations.
Four of the teams ahead—a total of 10 games—come against programs among the top 10 stingiest in goals allowed per game this season.
January will be the team's greatest challenge, as the Devils will welcome the Oklahoma schools into Tempe for three games before a single home game against the dangerous Liberty Flames the following week. Eight days later, ASU will travel cross-country to Virginia to battle the Flames for a two-game series.
The main event of the back half of the schedule will be the six games against Arizona. The Wildcats have improved greatly this season, and are currently No. 12 in the polls. While ASU made easy work of their hated rivals earlier in the year by a combined 11-1 score over the two-game sweep, nothing can be taken for granted in the rivalry, especially with four of the games taking place in hostile Tucson.
ASU returns to action with a rare Monday night game on November 25 when they host a two-game series against Iowa State.