No. 14 ASU hockey will face off against No. 8 Quinnipiac in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship on Saturday.
The Sun Devils (22-12-1) became the fastest program to reach the tournament despite having faced one of the nation’s toughest schedules, yet the Bobcats (25-9-2) may be their most well-rounded opponent to date.
“All over their structure is incredible,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “I mean, Rand [Pecknold]’s one of the best coaches in college hockey. What really is spectacular about what they do is how good they are on special teams – both power play and penalty kill.”
Entering the tournament, Quinnipiac has scored on 25.9 percent of their power plays and has killed 87.5 percent of penalties, which ranked fourth and third, respectively, in the nation.
While Arizona State struggled on the power play, it finished the season with the seventh-best penalty kill. The Sun Devils stopped opponent power plays at a 86.4 percent clip.
Both teams excelled on the penalty kill because of stellar goaltending.
“[Andrew] Shortridge has had literal video game-like numbers all year. I mean, his numbers are outrageously good,” Powers said. “He’s a great goalie. We know him well. We’ve played against him. But again, I think a lot of that has to do with their structure and how sound they are defensively.”
Shortridge and Joey Daccord were both named finalists for the Mike Richter Award, which is given to college hockey’s best goaltender each year.
Shortridge led all goaltenders up until the tournament with a 1.51 goals against average and .941 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Daccord tied with Providence’s Hayden Hawkey for the nationwide lead in shutouts, compiling seven in his 34 appearances.
“You don’t really pay too much attention to who’s in net or who’s doing what,” ASU forward Johnny Walker said. “You just kind of play your way. You’re going to get a couple chances a game and you got to capitalize on them, no matter if you’re shooting on [Daccord] or Shortridge…it’s playoff hockey and you got to capitalize.”
The return of Walker, the team’s leading scorer, should calm many concerns following the Minnesota series. The sophomore missed the team’s final road trip with an injury.
Walker will have to be the Sun Devils’ offensive counter to Quinnipiac’s Odeen Tufto. While Walker has scored 23 goals in just 31 games, Tufto has impressed with 42 points in 36 games.
Both players will be tested by solid defenses, but the Bobcats have the additional benefit of having Chase Priskie leading their blueliners.
Priskie ranks fifth in scoring among defensemen with 39 points. His outstanding regular season culminated in being named a Hobey Baker Award finalist, which is given to college hockey’s best player.
However, the Sun Devils do not see any clear advantage in having a finalist for both the Mike Richter and Hobey Baker awards.
“I think we have one of the best goalies in the country and solid core defensively as well, so I think we’ll match up just fine,” freshman forward Demetrios Koumontzis said.
The Sun Devils have a deep defense led by senior Brinson Pasichnuk, whose 29 points were second on the team this year.
The puck drop between Arizona State and Quinnipiac is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. MST in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.