Riding a four-game winning streak and growing national attention, ASU hockey hits the road for a two-game series against No. 6 Penn State.
Coming off of a scorching start to the season, Arizona State will look to pull off an upset this weekend at No. 6 Penn State.
If the Sun Devils (6-2-0) want to steal a road win, then they will have to shut down the Nittany Lions (5-0-0) and their high-volume offense where nine players on a point-per-game pace.
“They shoot from everywhere. They funnel pucks and bodies to the net better than anybody in the country,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said.
Powers noted the Sun Devils will need to rely on a sharp defensive game led by junior goaltender Joey Daccord.
History has not been kind to Daccord, who struggled in his two starts against Penn State last season – he surrendered 11 goals on 98 shots. He was pulled from a start in his freshman year as well after allowing eight goals on 12 shots.
Daccord will almost certainly face an inflated shot count, as the Nittany Lions have averaged 43 shots per game this season – most elite offenses have seen around 32-37 shots per game.
“They’re really quick and every single chance they get to shoot the puck, they do,” junior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk said. “They’ll put up 50 shots against teams on a regular basis.”
Pasichnuk emphasized the importance of selling out this weekend, as the defense will try to block as many shots as they can to ease Daccord’s workload. The captain said Daccord’s stellar stats – 1.51 goals against average and .949 save percentage – are a point of pride for the defense.
However, one thing is clear: this Arizona State squad is far more talented than any they have fielded in the past.
The Sun Devils’ 30 goals are the second-most in the nation so far, and their 266 shots rank third.
“Obviously we’re a lot stronger this year, a lot deeper,” sophomore forward Johnny Walker said. “Hockey is a sport where one or two extra guys make a huge difference, and then when we’ve got four or five coming in that makes that much more of a difference.”
Walker leads the nation with eight goals in as many games, and his 13 points are tied with Bowling Green’s Max Johnson for the nationwide lead.
The offense is stacked with depth, a luxury Arizona State has never had in its brief hockey history. They currently have nine players with at least four points through eight games, including four first-year athletes.
Forward Demetrios Koumontzis has stood out among a talented crop of newcomers.
Walker and Koumontzis, who has seven points in the young season, have breathed life into the usually dismal Arizona State power play. Koumontzis earned the primary assist on all four of Walker’s power play goals in the team’s most recent game against Nebraska Omaha.
Arizona State’s offense will likely see both junior Peyton Jones and sophomore Chris Funkey in the crease for Penn State. Jones has been one of the nation’s top goaltenders so far carrying a 1.33 GAA and a .963 save percentage. Funkey has been solid as well with a 2.50 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
The Sun Devils played well against Ohio State earlier in the season; however, they will need to play a disciplined game across the board if they want to get over the hump of beating college hockey’s elite.
The first game is Friday, Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. MT, followed by a Saturday showdown on Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. MT.
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.