ASU Hockey: Sun Devils ready for tough Desert Hockey Classic

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 08: Arizona State Sun Devils mascot "Sparky the Sun Devil " performs during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Sun Devil Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 08: Arizona State Sun Devils mascot "Sparky the Sun Devil " performs during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Sun Devil Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

After a two-week break, ASU hockey returns to action in the Desert Hockey Classic hosted at Gila River Arena in Glendale alongside three other ranked programs.

The No. 15 Sun Devils get the chance to compete in the national spotlight while in the midst of their best season yet as a NCAA Division I team. This year’s Desert Hockey Classic field is loaded as ASU hosts No. 3 Minnesota State, No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth and No. 19 Clarkson.

“It’s a great opportunity for our program,” ASU coach Greg Powers said. “But more importantly, it’s a great opportunity to expose the desert to unbelievable college hockey.”

Power’s team comes in off a series sweep, its sixth of the year, over Colorado College and rides a four-game win streak. The Sun Devils’ 14 wins this season is the most ever in their young history as a program surpassing the previous total of 10.

Much of ASU’s offensive success can be credited to sophomore forward Johnny Walker. The Arizona-native has notched a team-high 23 points and his 17 goals are the best tally in the NCAA.

On the other end of the ice, goaltender Joey Daccord has been a catalyst for ASU’s winning ways so far. The junior is putting up outstanding numbers with a .930 save percentage and 2.15 goals against average. His five shoutouts and 14 wins leads the nation.

Another critical piece to the puzzle for ASU has been the play of its freshmen. The youngsters have contributed mightily on both offense and defense to push the Sun Devils into contention for an NCAA Tournament bid.

“Our freshmen have been incredible,” Powers said. “They haven’t not only disappointed, they’ve exceeded our expectations as freshmen to this point. They are a huge reason to why we are where we are. It’s even bigger than how they perform on the ice, what they’ve done for our culture and our locker room is incredible.”

The last and only tournament that ASU played in as a NCAA D-I program was a historic one way back in January. The Sun Devils were crowned the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational champions with wins over Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech to hoist their first-ever trophy.

“It was the turning point of our program,” Powers said. “It was a great moment for our guys to taste what winning felt like together.”

Defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk, now a junior, was named the tournament’s MVP after posting three goals and two assists in the two games. His leadership has been very beneficial to the Sun Devils throughout his career and the co-captain knows what’s at stake in the Desert Hockey Classic this weekend.

“It’s a great opportunity to move up in the PairWise (rankings),” Pasichnuk said. “We want to make that tournament, that’s our goal, to win a national championship. We get two big wins this weekend against ranked teams, it’s going to boost us up.”


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ASU’s first opponent on Friday evening is the Clarkson Golden Knights. Clarkson enters the desert with a 9-6 overall record, 3-3 in the ECAC, this season under eight-year head coach Casey Jones.

“Great goaltending, incredibly aggressive team, hard to play against,” Powers said of Clarkson. “They have a good mix of size and skill, they’re built really well. They’re balanced. They’re a lot like us.”

CU and ASU have only played one series before in the history of the teams and it was in the Sun Devils’ 2015 hybrid season. The Golden Knights ousted ASU in both contests for the sweep, 3-2 and 4-1, at Cheel Arena in New York.

Junior forward Nico Sturm leads the way for the Golden Knights. The German co-captain holds a team-high 17 points.

Right behind Strum is Latvian-native Haralds Egle, who has 16 points with seven goals and nine assists. Clarkson’s offense is averaging nearly 3.27 goals a game.

In net for the Golden Knights is junior Jake Kielly. His numbers are similar to ASU’s Daccord as Kielly boasts a .922 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average.

Minnesota State

The Minnesota State Mavericks enter the Desert Hockey Classic without their head coach Mike Hastings who was called upon to coach the U.S. National Team in the IIHF World Junior Championship.

At 14-4 overall and 9-3 in the WCHA, Minnesota State is one of the best teams in college hockey. The Mavericks and Sun Devils have never met before but can potentially go to battle against each other on Saturday night.

With the fourth-best offense in the country, Minnesota State has a lethal attack led by a pair of Germans. Junior forward Parker Tuomie has a team-best 22 points and his native partner dons 21 points and leads in goals with 11.

The best power play of the tournament also belongs to Minnesota State. The Mavericks are capitalizing on 23.7 percent of their man-advantage chances and have 22 power-play goals this season.

Goaltenders Mathias Israelsson (7-1) and Dryden McKay (7-3) are balanced between the pipes for the Mavericks this season.

Minnesota State made the NCAA Tournament last year as an at-large team. Coincidentally, it fell at the hands of defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth, 3-2 in overtime, in the first-round regional game.


The reigning National Champion Minnesota-Duluth rounds out the stellar Desert Hockey Classic field of teams. The Bulldogs are 10-4-2 on the year and have a 4-3-1 record in NCHC play.

Duluth’s head coach Scott Sandelin will also miss the weekend due to the IIHF World Juniors where he took a role as an assistant coach under Minnesota State’s Hastings. Sandelin has coached the Bulldogs for 19 seasons and is on pace to be the winningest coach in the program’s history.

Sandelin has also taken three of his players with him. Defensemen Mikey Anderson and Dylan Samberg, and forward Noah Cates all join Team USA in a quest for a gold medal.

However, Duluth seemingly won’t lose much offense without those guys. Defenseman Scott Perunovich has the most points on the team with 18 (2 G, 16 A) and will be forced step up into a major role. Senior forward Parker Mackay is next in line with 14 points and paces the Bulldogs with seven goals on the season.

Junior goaltender Hunter has played in every game for Duluth thus far. His strong play has produced 10 wins, along with a .921 save percentage and 1.77 goals against average that both rank top-ten in the nation.

Duluth’s penalty kill is the best of the best. Their kill ranks first at 91.9 percent and they haven’t allowed a power-play goal in the last five games.

The Bulldogs and Sun Devils have never matched up before, but it could be seen for the first time on Saturday.

Broadcast Information

The Desert Hockey Classic begins at 4:30 p.m. MT as No. 3 Minnesota State and No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth face off in the first game on Friday.

At 7:30 p.m. MT, No. 15 ASU will go head-to-head with No. 19 Clarkson for a chance to play in the title game on Saturday. The Sun Devils are locked into the 7:30 p.m. MT spot on Saturday regardless of the outcome.

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Both of ASU’s games will be shown live on Pac-12 Networks and the non-ASU games will be streamed live on Pac-12 Plus.