(Hekle Photo Images)
Another week, anther match-up with a top 5 program for the Sun Devils
A win is a win...even if it does destroy your cardiac health in the process.
Last weekend, the Sun Devils showed off an unparalleled flair for the dramatic, as all three games went into extra time.
It began on Thursday with their game against No. 8 Liberty, which went into the eighth round of a shootout before Darcy Charrois won it for the Sun Devils. The next night, hosting No. 15 Stony Brook, another, much shorter shootout resulted in a 2-1 victory. ASU capped the madness with a 5-4 overtime win over Stony Brook on Saturday, including a flurry of goals late in regulation.
This week, Arizona State has another three-game stretch beginning with a major showdown with the ACHA's fifth ranked team, the Oklahoma Sooners. Thursday's game is the third meeting on the season between the clubs, with ASU scoring a pair of 6-1 victories in Norman back in November.
Oklahoma comes to Tempe in the midst of a significant slump, albeit against difficult competition. The Sooners have lost three straight and six of their last seven overall, including three in overtime or a shootout. That slide has dropped the Sooners to 15-14 on the year.
The Sooner attack ranks a pedestrian 28th in the ACHA in scoring with 3.9 goals-per-game, and have scored over three goals just once since December 8th.
Offensively, Oklahoma lacks an elite scorer or two, but compensates by having a multitude of solid scoring options. Jordan Greenberg, an exciting freshman forward, is the key playmaker in facilitating the offense. He leads the Sooners with 16 assists and 27 points, but has been frighteningly effective on the penalty kill, with six of his 11 goals coming shorthanded. Continuing the youth trend, sophomore Darrell Boldon has a team-high 14 goals. Steady senior Chad Hudson is the other Sooner with over 20 points (12 goals, 12 assists).
While they have their offensive woes, Oklahoma is better on defense, allowing just 2.9 per game.
Their blueline has done a good job of limiting shots on goal, with Sooner goaltenders seeing under 30 shots per game, on average. Kevin Zehnder and Troy Puente have been a steady presence on defense while also contributing offensively, while senior Augie Hoffman brings a more physical and imposing presence to the unit.
Goalie Colin Fernandes had his struggles with the Sun Devils two months ago, and will need to be much better to keep the Sooner in it against ASU's mighty offense. Fernandes' 2.66 GAA is just 23rd among goalies with over 300 minutes played, and his .911 save percentage is sufficiently middle-of-the-road.
Despite the lofty ranking for the Sooners, this should be a game that the Sun Devils control from start to finish, as they did in their prior meetings. ASU has skill and talent advantages in every area, and will enjoy the comforts of home ice. The Sun Devils need to avoid their recent tendency to start slow against this Sooner team in desperate need of a win. Should they do that, this figures to be a multi-goal victory.
The puck drops tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.