The second ranked Arizona State hockey team recently swept the University of Arizona and moved up to its best ranking in program history. This weekend, the Sun Devils will play their first road games of the season against a top fifteen opponent in Iowa State.
Last season, the Sun Devils split the series with the Cyclones in a 7-2, 1-2 fashion and the team hopes to see better results this weekend. The action starts today at 5:30 p.m. with the puck dropping on Saturday at the same time.
Here are the top five keys to success in Ames, Iowa
Come Out Firing
Last year, the Sun Devils had the tendency of getting off to slow starts against stronger American Collegiate Hockey Association opponents. Oftentimes, they were forced to change strategy because they were caught in early deficits or lacked momentum. The last thing the Sun Devils need this weekend is to mentally slip on the ice.
So far the team has not shown any sign of sluggish limbs, but this is still the first road test of the season. Iowa State scored 18 goals in two games against a less-talented Kansas Jayhawk team. On paper, the maroon and gold is far more talented then the Cyclones. But ASU needs to dictate the pace and energy of the game in the first twenty minutes because other teams cannot keep up when the inferno is blazing.
Continue to Build Chemistry
Head coach Greg Powers has had no need to shuffle any of the lines because his players were performing well in front of the home crowd. The next step for the Sun Devils is being able to handle the adversity on the road.
Coach Powers takes pride that ASU has sixteen skaters who could all play on the top line. The lines have done a great job thus far of complementing their teammates strengths and weaknesses but that starts over this weekend when the Sun Devils are in a different atmosphere away from Tempe. This is a chance to see which players are hungry because the Sun Devils take on fifth-ranked Lindenwood at home on October 12th and 13th. They can use any and all momentum to motivate this team.
Former top-nine forward Patrick Rogan led the team last year with four points against the Cyclones. They will look to the new lines to find the answer for Rogan's absence.
Play Disciplined Hockey
Last weekend, the Sun Devils were slammed with 38 penalty minutes against the Wildcats. A lot of those minutes is most likely result of the rivalry, but that is nearly two periods worth of minors.
ASU cannot afford to do that in a road setting. Period. If the Sun Devils get worn out on the penalty kill, they will not be as sharp on even strength hockey. ASU has some fantastic penalty killers but they want to be on the better side of the penalty box this time around.
Get the Newcomers Involved
The newcomers played a considerable role in the teams' sweep against rival Arizona last weekend. Forwards Stephen Collins and Brian McGinty and defenseman Jordan Young were the three newcomers that found the stat sheet but that was not all they accomplished.
McGinty and Collins were the fiercest of the newcomers in the physical game against U of A. McGinty showed that he has some fire inside of him when he and Arizona's Michael Basist were animated and yelling at each other in the penalty box. Collins laid out some Wildcats and defensemen Brett Blomgren and Sean Ritchie did their part in playing big and keeping the puck away from the crease.
Forward Faiz Khan played all three games alongside captain Colin Hekle and he is a true workhorse on the ice who will never take a shift off. It's only a matter of time before Khan starts lighting up the stat sheet.
Coach Powers was even comfortable enough to play four freshmen at once along with senior forward Dan Styrna against Arizona. It shows that coach is not afraid to trust his new recruits.
Help Out D'Elia Defensively
Goaltender Joe D'Elia only faced four shots in the season opener against Texas A&M and then he stopped 92% of the shots against U of A. Two of the goals the Sun Devils gave up against their rival were results of turnovers. They need to be more protective of the puck, especially in their defensive end of the rink.
The Sun Devils were successful at blocking shots against the Wildcats and they need to make sure they do not give up any second chances. It will be all about communicating this weekend. ASU cannot afford to make any mistakes because the Cyclones have a few scorers who can punish the Sun Devils, most notably Jon Feavel with nine goals in the young season.
With the Sun Devils losing Jason Maltese, Blomgren, Ritchie and Kyle Hughes are responsible for adding depth to the blueline. This unit was not afraid to play an offensive style of game in the first three games of the season, but they will need to play a more stay-at-home style of play and allow the forwards to do the majority of work on offense.