Four wins down, four wins to go.
The Cactus Cup rivalry returns to Tempe this weekend as the Arizona State Sun Devils hope to build upon their incredible 28-game winning against the Arizona Wildcats.
For the past four seasons, the Sun Devils and the Wildcats have met for a total of eight games each year. Though the rivalry in other sports between these two schools is usually competitive, Arizona State holds a particularly one-sided advantage on the ice.
With four victories over Arizona already this season, the Sun Devils have reached the halfway point of securing a fourth consecutive season sweep. When Coach Sean Hogan arrives to coach his Wildcats for this weekend's two-game series, he'll bring with him an entire roster of players who have never tasted victory against their rivals.
On paper, the Sun Devils have every reason to believe that their dominance will continue.
Arizona State comes into Friday night's game with nine different players who have reached the 20-point mark this season, including captain Colin Hekle who leads the team with 53 points.
Combine the exceptional offense with superb goaltending from Joe D'Elia who recorded two shut outs against Rhode Island last weekend and the Sun Devils have all the pieces for a run at the National Championship.
Though Arizona State might seem like a juggernaut incapable of falling, the Arizona Wildcats have their best chance in recent memory to pull off an upset.
Ansel Ivens-Anderson, Brian Slugocki, and Andrew Murmes headline a potent attack that has lit up its ACHA opponents. Each of the three players has at least 43 points, and Slugocki has tallied a team-leading 23 goals already this year.
Furthermore, the Wildcats have shown their propensity for knocking off heavyweight foes by defeating the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners twice this season.
While the Wildcats' goaltending might be a little shoddy and their depth a lingering question, there is no doubt that this team has incentive to win.
Not only does Arizona hope to end its disastrous losing streak, but the Wildcats are also fighting for a berth in the ACHA National Tournament.
At the moment, the 18th ranked Wildcats would barely qualify, and their four remaining games against the Sun Devils make nearly every game on their schedule a must-win from here on out.
With such a storied rivalry between these two schools in every sport, it's hard to overlook the significance of the winning streak on the ice. Many of the players who set the foundation for these programs have come and gone, but their legacy is here to stay.
Six Arizona State seniors will play their final home games of their careers this weekend, and their only memories of Cactus Cup games come in victorious efforts.
Dan Styrna is one of the graduating Sun Devils, and his career against the Wildcats speaks for itself. Of the forward's 124 career points, over one quarter of his points come in Cactus Cup play.
Another senior, Danny Anderson, made his mark against Arizona as well. Though Anderson has just one point this season, eight of his 15 career goals have come against the Wildcats.
The entire senior class helped spark the Sun Devils' rise to the front of the pack in the ACHA, and the veterans hope that this weekend's series can help springboard them to a run at the National Championship to cap off their time in Tempe.