ASU hockey wrapped up 2018 with a historic first half of the season. Now, they host the Boston College Eagles to ring in the new year as the final push towards an NCAA Tournament commences.
The No. 15/13 Sun Devils enter 2019 off of a mixed effort opposing two ranked teams in last weekend’s Desert Hockey Classic. With a shutout loss to Clarkson, 3-0, and then a 2-2 tie and moral shootout victory against Minnesota State, ASU’s record adjusted to 14-7-1 on the season.
Sophomore Johnny Walker was the late-game savior for the Sun Devils on Saturday when the nation’s leading-goal scorer tallied his 18th of the year to tie things up with just 29 seconds left in the contest.
Walker’s clutch factor has been a vital part to ASU’s recent success in just its third crack at a full NCAA schedule. The Phoenix-native has registered five goals in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime through 22 games; that’s over a quarter of his scores coming in crunch time.
Interestingly enough, the budding college hockey star will get to face his father’s alma mater for the first time. Johnny’s dad, Jeff Walker, played in 12 games as a goaltender for Boston College between 1986 and 1989.
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This weekend’s series will be just the second and third meeting between two very different programs, one having been around for close to a century compared to the most modern in the NCAA. The inaugural match-up between the Eagles and Sun Devils ended in a 3-1 victory for BC back on Nov. 12, 2016.
Boston College is led by Jerry York, the winningest active coach in NCAA history. York, a former Eagles forward, has won four national championships (2001, 2008, 2010 and 2012) as the bench boss for the program and is the only Division I hockey coach with over 1,000 wins in his long-time career.
Although the Eagles were ranked No. 12 in the USCHO.com preseason poll, their season hasn’t lived up to the early expectations with a 6-7-2 record to this point. However, after an 0-5 start, BC rattled off a 6-2-2 exertion to close out 2018.
The Boston College roster is loaded with 11 NHL draft picks. Junior forward David Cotton, selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2015, paces the team with 18 points and 11 goals.
But the Eagles’ offensive production has lacked throughout the season as they have been shut out five times in 15 games, therefore, relying heavily on the goaltending of junior Joseph Woll.
The weekend series will hold an intriguing battle between the pipes. Woll, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, has put up quality numbers that are very similar to those of ASU junior net minder and Ottawa Senators draft pick, Joey Daccord.
Both share the same save percentage of .929 while Woll holds the upper hand with a better goals against average of 2.06 next to Daccord’s 2.18. However, Daccord does lead the NCAA in wins (14) and shutouts (5).
Forward Oliver Wahlstrom, the No. 11th overall pick from the 2018 NHL Draft, will be missing on the ice for Boston College. The freshman is representing Team USA at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver.
After the Desert Hockey Classic, ASU was ranked at No. 13 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine weekly poll and continues to carry the No. 15 spot in the USCHO.com rankings which hasn’t released a poll in nearly a month.
But the Sun Devils were able to clamp down on the No. 9 spot in the most-important PairWise rankings. When ASU first reached that rank two weeks ago, NCAA.com writer Nathan Wells listed the program in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed.
As the new year begins, ASU head coach Greg Powers and the Sun Devils only have 12 games left to improve their resumé for a potential tournament bid for the first time ever.
ASU and Boston College will get the series started at Oceanside Ice Arena on Friday. Then, Saturday’s game on Jan. 5 is picked up and moved to Glendale for the Sun Devils’ third game at Gila River Arena in just a week and can be viewed on Pac-12 Networks.