The reign of head coach Greg Powers' Sun Devils over the ACHA continues.
Despite a disappointing and rare loss to No. 3 Robert Morris that resulted in a series split over the weekend, Arizona State remains a truly dominant force in the league, and a favorite to win their first national championship.
Why? That's easy. Because they excel at the two elements most essential to on ice success.
1) They score a lot of goals
Taking a look around the rest of the 56 ACHA teams, and you will see the Sun Devil offense among the elite. Through their 22 games, ASU has lit the lamp 130 times, the third-highest mark in the league, trailing only Adrian (148) and Buffalo (146). On a per-game basis, ASU's 5.91 goals-per-game remains third behind both Adrian (6.43) and Buffalo (6.08).
That offensive success is led by the Devils depth. Following last weekend's series, the Sun Devils had five players rank among the nation's top 50, one of two schools, along with Buffalo, to populate the list with so many names.
Kale Dolinski leads the way ranking 9th in the ACHA with 37 points, following closely by Colin Hekle (36 points, 14th), Danny McAuliffe (32, 30th), and Brian McGinty and Stephen Collins (both with 29, tied for 42nd).
Dolinksi's 23 goals ranks him sixth in the nation, and Collins' 20 tallies are 8th. Together, they are just one of two pairs of teammates who are members of the 20-goal club, along with Navy's Thomas Krysil and Dustin Oberlander.
So far, Hekle and Collins have each been major contributors on the power play, each scoring seven times with a man advantage. That figure is the fourth highest in the ACHA.
Collins in particular has been a special teams beast, as in addition to his seven power play goals, he has three short handed goals as well. Those 10 total special teams goals is the second-most in the nation, trailing only the 11 of Bryan Kozlowski (10 PP, 1 SH).
2) They don't give up a lot of goals
While their forwards are off wreaking havoc in the offensive zone, things have been relatively quiet—from a statistical standpoint—in the defensive zone.
ASU has surrendered 47 goals on the year, the fewest among teams with over 20 games played. The team's 2.14 goals against average mark is the nation's fourth best, behind Minot State (1.82), recent adversary Robert Morris (2.05) and Buffalo (2.08).
The play along the blueline from ASU's defenesmen and the aggressive forecheck from the forwards have been big factors in this success, but as it almost invariably does, the bulk of the credit falls on goaltender Joe D'Elia.
Among goalies who have played over 600 minutes (the equivalent of 10 full games), D'Elia's .920 save percentage ranks sixth, and his 2.05 goals against average is the nation's best by a hefty margin, as Oklahoma's Colin Fernandes is No. 2 at 2.17.
When his stellar play is combined with the team's scoring prowess, it's no surprise that D'Elia's 14 victories are the second most in the country.
In the end, that two-way success results in a +83 goal differential, third best in the nation, a 20-2 record, and most importantly, the No. 1 record heading into the holidays.