ASU Hockey: Sun Devils vs. Nittany Lions Series Preview

Despite a loss to Boston College, ASU Hockey’s team is fresh off a successful weekend, keeping the game against the Eagles close and topping New Hampshire the day before. The Sun Devils face off against No. 10 Penn State this weekend.

The Penn State D1 hockey program is a relatively new one, similar to ASU, as the Nittany Lions made the jump from ACHA to NCAA hockey during the 2012-13 season. Since then, they’ve had immediate success, as they come into the series with the Sun Devils boasting a 9-1-1 record.

University Park, Pennsylvania has a storied history of hockey, however, despite the lack of a D1 program until recent years. From 1992 to 2012, the club team saw a stretch that included seven runner-up finishes in ACHA Nationals and five finishes as ACHA National Champions.

While the record would show that the Sun Devils have struggled this season, they’re coming off a weekend where they faced their first non-ranked opponent of the season, New Hampshire, in a game where they bounced back and forth, then battled back to claim an overtime victory.

The two-goal game from Brinson Pasichnuk and return to the ice from Jordan Masters fed into a game against powerhouse Boston College, a game that was expected to be a blowout and turned into a battle down to the wire.

Penn State currently rides on a seven-game winning streak, the most recent two coming against University of Alaska Anchorage, games the Nittany Lions won 6-3 and 3-1.  In the first matchup, freshman Kris Myllari and sophomore Chase Berger scored two goals a piece, with Anchorage being held to 17 shots all game long, 14 of which were saved by rookie goalie Peyton Jones.

Jones, who is played in all but 2 games this season, was given the nod the following game, where he secured 22 of the 23 shots sent his way. Penn State took a whopping 56 shots on goal, 2 of which were goals scored by freshman Nate Sucese. The leading point-getter for PSU this season, however, has been another freshman, Dennis Smirnov, who hails from Moscow, Russia.

Sophomore Andrew Sturtz has scored 8 of the 47 Penn State goals this season, 25 more than they have allowed through 11 games.

More than anything, special teams have hurt the Sun Devils this season and are the main area the team seeks improvement. The two power play goals scored by Boston College on Sunday were the difference in the 3-1 final score and proved more costly than ever. ASU’s combined special teams is ranked 56th in the country and has allowed more power play goals than anyone else with 20. They’re 6-for-67 on the power play.

With the struggles do come bright spots and graduate transfer Robbie Baillargeon has been a bright spot, leading the team up to this point, with nine points this season coming on three assists and six goals in 11 games. Joey Daccord has looked strong in goal this season, compiling a .870 save percentage, but the rotation featuring Ryland Pashovitz and Robert Levin has been in place, as all three have seen adequate playing time.

With two wins under the belt of this Sun Devil team and Jordan Masters back on the ice, pieces are slowly starting to come together for Arizona State. While there is still a long way to go for the newest D1 hockey program in the nation, penalty numbers are dwindling and roles are starting to emerge, signaling good things to come, especially after the well-fought game against Boston College.

The NCAA’s two youngest programs face off for the first time, this weekend in University Park, Pennsylvania for two games. Puck drop is at 5pm MST in the game on Friday, then 1pm MST in the contest on Saturday.