Arizona State hockey took care of business this weekend sweeping the two-game series against No.6 Delaware and then beating Northern Arizona University Saturday night. Head coach Greg Powers knows his team did not play its best hockey and he gave his respects to both schools for keeping it close.
It seems like ASU has the same Achilles' Heel each season - injuries. Fortunately none of them are severe considering the majority of the skaters missing are expected to return next week according to Powers, but there is a slight issue when the team played its best hockey this weekend on a night where nine veterans were suspended and a couple of first-year players were dealing with their injuries.
After beating the Blue Hens 7-2 on Thursday, the Sun Devils had to win game two in overtime and at one point, the game was tied at one against DII NAU before ASU scored three power play goals. With the team preparing to take on the Colorado schools next weekend, here are a few weekend observations that may play into the bigger picture.
We seem to address this every year but with the amount of injuries this team has sustained, it's hard not to talk about it (will someone knock on wood, please). On Saturday night, Powers made the decision to move junior Faiz Khan to the fourth line in order to make him the go-to forward. He wanted to give the California native an opportunity to score because his linemates would be working the offense through Khan.
That paid off big time considering Khan scored the team's first goal on Friday night when the Sun Devil team was losing momentum to Delaware. In overtime, he had the game winning assist to Colin Hekle on a perfect pass so it was a productive evening for Khan.
In a bigger picture, the team will be facing injury issues of some kind all season so the team needs to understand that it may not play every game with the same players. A change of scenery is sometimes beneficial, but Arizona State has by far the most talent of any team in the ACHA ranks. Keep an eye out on what Sun Devil team shows up next weekend because they are in need of some confidence and they need to embrace the target that's on their back.
On a more positive note, Kale Dolinski is the real deal. The short and sweet version to the team's success has been to give Dolinski the puck
After 12 games, the assistant captain currently has 10 goals and 19 assists. He is averaging 2.4 points per game this year and is close to on pace for breaking his freshman record of 77 points (2.6 points per game). The former Minot State forward leads the league in points and assists which is extremely impressive considering how deep this Sun Devils team is.
Powers just loves the team's top line. Dolinski, Danny McAuliffe and Liam Norris have combined to become the most productive line in Division I hockey - 68 points while playing together in just 11 games.
Laying Down the Law
Discipline is beginning to come an issue again for Arizona State, but the team is addressing the penalty situation as of this past weekend.
Coach Powers had to suspend nine players for the Thursday night game and both Delaware and NAU were able to get under the players' skin the following two nights. ASU is a quick team and they use their speed to their advantage, but if the game gets overly physical, Arizona State seems to slow down.
This years' Sun Devil team needs to work on sticking to its game plan. There is no doubt in my mind that this team is not the best in the league, but in order to be the best, the team needs to show that it does not drastically change its game plan a few minutes into the game. At times, the team looked sluggish and a few mistakes in a row turned into two=minute minors. If the maroon and gold wants its national championship, it needs to address discipline and stay focused on its game.
The amazing part is, this team hasn't even fully come together (which is expected, it's not even Halloween yet) and they are still 13-0.
By no means am I trying to sound negative or attack this team. Everyone is preparing for a National Championship and the fans seem to want it just as bad as the team based on their reaction at Oceanside and on social media. Now it's time to see Arizona State switch into high gear so they can get in their own Autobahn lane where no team can even think about catching them.