The Sun Devils played the Liberty Flames without forwards Faiz Khan, Liam Norris, or Kory Chisholm, and won a 4-3 decision in a shootout on Thursday night thanks to Darcy Charrois’ goal in the eight round. Joe D’Elia played phenomenal hockey as he warded aside all eight shootout attempts and blocked over 35 shots in regulation. He played inspired hockey to say the least and that needs to continue this weekend because the Sun Devils have not proven they are number one just yet after the poor (some would call lucky) performance against No. 8 Liberty.
The maroon and gold was hoping to be fully healthy by the start of the spring semester, but that is not the case. Fortunately, all three skaters could potentially return to the ice next weekend against Oklahoma. Kyle Bowen has stepped in as another great addition to the 2012 recruiting class as he is a top six forward and plays like a grinder.
Bowen provides some more firepower and depth for the banged up Sun Devils in the final two months of the season, but success needs to happen now. ASU has its number one ranking on the line this weekend when they play No. 10 Stony Brook. After losing four of their last nine games, head coach Greg Powers said the team is starting to hear doubters. They have the power to erase some of those worries with a clean sweep against the Seawolves at home. According to Powers, the chemistry is there but the lines have not always been playing their best hockey.
Over the first half of the season, forwards Colin Hekle, Danny McAuliffe, and Dan Styrna each reached the 50-goal mark of their Sun Devil careers and they are hoping that offensive dominance will leak over to the rest of the team considering how important the remaining series are.
This game could potentially come down to team discipline. Over the holidays, there was a three game span where the Sun Devils did not commit a single penalty. A similar success this weekend could help solidify two victories considering Stony Brook spends ample time in the penalty box, 385 minutes to be exact.
Arizona State needs to be aware that freshman defenseman Andrew Balzafiore leads the team with 91 penalty minutes and ASU can use that to their advantage if they continue to attack in the offense zone.
Keep in mind that Stony Brook has not played a game since December 8th when they were swept by Liberty so they will be healthy and well rested coming into the desert. They can have the most physically fit team in the ACHA heading into the series, but the Sun Devils have proven it wont matter how prepared their opponent is if they can’t score. In three of ASU’s four losses this season, the Sun Devils surrendered five or more goals.
Nick Barbera leads his team with ten goals, four of which came shorthanded, and 19 points. Eight Sun Devils have more points than Stony Brook’s leading scorer. Though the Seawolves do not dominate the scoring department, they play a very defensive style, which compliments their players. Only four times have they allowed their opponent to score five or more goals. Stony Brook will need to play its best hockey of the season and outplay Joe D’Elia to dethrone the Sun Devils from the ACHA spotlight.
From a goaltending stand point, ASU has the edge by a landslide. Both teams utilize a three-goalie system, but Stony Brook’s has not been as effective. Brendan Jones has played the majority of the games as has accumulated a sub-par 3.60 goals against on average. Wolf hunting time for Sparky? I would say so.
Now is not the time to ease off the throttle and allow the rest of the ACHA to catch up, especially since the Seawolves come into Tempe with an average 9-7-1 record. Two wins will put the Sun Devils back in the first class seats to Chicago heading into the ACHA National Tournament, but there are still six more weekends to go in ASU’s regular season.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 8 p.m. Friday night and 7 p.m. on Saturday or watch the live stream for both games at http://www.cronkitesports.com/live-broadcasts/