#5 Huskies to Host Upstart ASU Sun Devils this Weekend

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MATCHUP

The #5 ranked St. Cloud State University Huskies (14-4-0)  host Division I Independent Arizona State University Sun Devils (5-12-0) at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s game is scheduled for a 7:37 PM CT puck drop and Saturday’s start at 7:07 PM CT.

Both games will be streamed on NCHC.TV

The audio  broadcast of both games can be heard on KCML 99.9 FM and online here

HEAD TO HEAD

This is the first ever meeting between Arizona State University and St. Cloud State University at the Division 1 level. .

LAST SERIES

The Sun Devils were swept by NCHC opponent Omaha in a non-conference series on December 19 and 20 at Baxter Arena in Omaha, NE. In a relatively close contest on the scoreboard Friday, the Sun Devils gave the Mavericks some fits keeping it a one-goal game until 9:57 of the third period. Omaha ultimately won the game 3-1 outshooting ASU 44-19. All three Omaha goals were on the man-advantage. On Saturday, the Mavericks completed the sweep outshooting ASU 39-16 and shutting out the Sun Devils 6-0 on six even-strength goals. ASU leading scorer Jordan Masters scored the lone weekend goal for the Sun Devils on Friday.

The #3 PWR Huskies completed a road sweep of the Denver Pioneers in a NCHC conference series on December 11/12. In another strong show of offense, the Huskies were led by a senior class that produced 20 points over the 5-2 / 6-2 weekend sweep. SCSU was led by Kalle Kossila who netted 5 goals in the weekend series and was subsequently named NCHC offensive player of the week. The Huskies were also productive on the power play scoring four times in eight opportunities. The weekend sweep allowed the Huskies to maintain second place in the NCHC standings and trail first-place North Dakota by three points.

ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY SUN DEVILS

Buoyed by a $32M donation by a group led by Don Mullett, President of Wisconsin’s Bradley Corporation, the Sun Devils will embark on a journey similar to what the Huskies experienced elevating their program to the Division I level in 1987-88. Although Division I hockey is not new to Arizona, the state has not had a Division I hockey program since  Northern Arizona dropped their program nearly thirty years ago in 1986. The Sun Devils have fielded competitive club hockey programs over the years and won the ACHA Division I national championship in 2013-14. Club hockey Coach Greg Powers has retained the head coaching position for the Sun Devils.

Current plans are for ASU to compete as a NCAA Division I independent in 2015-16 and 2016-17 and then to consider a possible league affiliation the following season. The move to Division I hockey has created Title IX issues and as a result,  ASU has started a Division I women’s lacrosse program and a women’s triathlon program. more here

The Sun Devils grueling schedule has had them on the road for 17 of 20 games thus far this season. Their 2015-16 schedule includes 25 Division One opponents including top 20 opponents Omaha, Quinnipiac, Yale, Mass-Lowell, Merrimack and this weekends opponent SCSU. Season highlights include a road win vs Alaska in October and a road sweep of Lake Superior State University on November 13/14.

The current roster includes holdovers from the club hockey program, transfers from other D-I programs and 15 first-year players. However, despite the abundance of first-year players the team still averages over 22 years of age. It’s been a struggle from an offensive standpoint for the Sun Devils averaging only 1.27 GPG while allowing 3.53 GPG. The power play has also struggled converting only 6.4% of their opportunities while allowing opponents to score 25.8% of the time. The offense has been led by first-year players with Jordan Masters leading the team in points with 4-8-12. Defenseman Joey Raatz has 1-6-7 and Joe Lappin has contributed 2-4-6. They’ve received solid goaltending from Ryland Pashovitz and despite a 3.19 GAA has turned aside 92% of his opponents SOG.

ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES

Despite the country’s most difficult schedule, the #3 PWR Huskies have excelled in nearly every national statistical category including team offense (4th), team defense (11th), power play (2nd) and penalties (58th). However, they have struggled on the penalty kill at 71.7% although the sample size is less credible due to their lack of penalties. The senior class has been outstanding producing over 40% of the teams points. Seniors Kalle Kossila ( 8-15-23), David Morley (8-12-20), Jimmy Murray (6-13-19), Joey Benik (11-7-18) and Ethan Prow (2-15-17) lead the way on offense. Sophomores Patrick Russell (7-11-18) and Judd Peterson (10-4-14) have also helped pad the offensive statistics.

Goaltender Charlie Lindgren continues to be superb with a 13-4-0 record, .925 SV% and 2.03 GAA.

Defensively, they’ve also been impressive with outstanding play from first-year players Jon Lizzotte, Jimmy Schuldt and Will Borgen, currently competing in the World Junior Championships for Team USA. Junior, Niklas Nevalainen has never been better at +11 and sophomore, Nate Widman has 8 assists and leads the defense at +14.

THE GAME

Statistically, the Sun Devils are huge underdogs facing an offense producing over 3 GPG game more than them. They’ll also have the task of trying to contain the speedier Huskies on the Olympic sized rink of the HBNHC. Expect the Huskies to have ample man-advantage opportunities as ASU attempts to slow down the Huskies and play a tighter contest. Expect a hard-working Sun Devils squad to do their best to clog entrance to the ASU defensive zone. Goaltender Pashovitz has been solid but he’s certain to get a workout and see a lot of rubber this weekend. You can never take a team lightly but consider this series a good warm-up as the Huskies return to NCHC conference action next weekend vs Colorado College.

There is a possibility Judd Peterson could return to the lineup this weekend. However, it would not surprise if the coaching staff made the decision to keep him out of the lineup until next weeks Colorado College home series.

Following this weekends ASU series, the Huskies host the USA U18 team in an exhibition contest on Sunday.

As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games can be found here

Enjoy the games!

Bill Prout    

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