Arizona State hockey puts its number two overall ranking on the line this weekend against fifth-ranked Lindenwood. Fresh off a sweep of No. 11 Iowa State last weekend, the Sun Devils are hoping to keep their undefeated streak alive.
The Sun Devils beat Lindenwood for the first time in program history in a 4-1 decision just a year ago. This year, they will be looking for a sweep against the team from Missouri in hopes of improving to 7-0-0 on the season and possibly claiming the top spot in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
The Lindenwood Lions come in to Tempe with a daunting 1-1-2 record, but coach Greg Powers knows better than anyone that Lindenwood could quite possibly be the toughest opponent ASU will face all season. Two weeks ago, the Lions were the top team in the ACHA. But this is not the Lindenwood team of least year. It is a difficult task to bounce back after losing some of the team's most talented players.
"Lindenwood had arguable the top two defenseman (Bret Morrell and Colin Long) in the league graduate last season... Anytime you lose a trio of defensemen that good, it's going to take an adjustment period to learn how to play without them. They were that good," Powers said.
The Sun Devils number one threat this weekend may be Lindenwood forward Grant Gorczyca. Gorczyca has already found the goal column twice this season and he scored two of the teams three goals last season against the Sun Devils.
This weekend, Powers said he would like to see freshman Stephen Collins and senior forward Dan Styrna have a breakout weekend to give them confidence moving forward. Styrna led the team in goals in 2012 and this season, he is still looking for his first tally but he is tied for the team lead with seven assists. Collins already has five goals in his freshman campaign and should compliment his new linemates Brian McGinty and Colin Hekle nicely.
For a recap of the Iowa State series, the Sun Devils had a scare during the Friday night game when they were down in a 2-0 hole on the road. But the maroon and gold did what they know best and battled their way back into the game before eventually winning it on a Jordan Young overtime goal.
Coach Powers was pleased with how his team responded the next day.
"Saturday we played really well. We did not have one defensive breakdown. We just couldn't put the game away," Powers said.
The 2-1 final score does not reflect how dominating the Sun Devils played on the weekend. Powers said he shifted the lines around and liked what he saw from his team during practice this week. Goaltender Corey Frank made his first start of the season on Saturday night against Iowa State and he virtually shut down the Cyclones, giving up just one goal in the 23 shots he faced.
Unfortunately, the Sun Devils will be without senior forward Brett Prechel this weekend and possibly longer. Prechel was spotted with crutches during Wednesday morning's practice. According to Powers, he is out indefinitely with a torn ACL. The Phoenix native has two assists and played in four games this season.
Number two is the highest ranking in the program's history and we should certainly expect a showcase this weekend to prove why the Sun Devils deserve to be the top team in the ACHA.
Opening face-off is set to drop at 8 p.m. Friday evening and 7 p.m. on Saturday at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.