Valentine's Day was not as romantic as the Arizona State hockey team would have hoped as Williston State nearly stole the Sun Devils' hearts in a shootout.
With the game on the line, the Tetons sent their leading scorer Brandon Passley out onto the ice, but Corey Frank made the crucial save and Dan Anderson went on to win it for ASU in a 4-3 decision.
The Sun Devils will not get as lucky against the Minot State Beavers if they play like they did on Thursday night. There is no pressure, however, for either team since the tournament seeding has already been released. But a win could send one team in the right direction for the beginning of March.
"Playing a team like Minot - they're big, they're tough, they're strong, they're good - in front of a packed house, it's really going to help us prepare for what we're going to see in Chicago and that's why we're doing (this road trip). To really get in that mindset now," head coach Greg Powers said.
David versus Goliath. Offense versus defense. No. 2 versus No. 3. The Sun Devils are top 5 in the ACHA with 181 goals scored and Minot State is the best in the league with only 46 goals allowed and eight shutouts.
The last time these two teams played, the Beavers got the best of the Sun Devils in Tempe. Brian McGinty and Stephen Collins scored the two goals in early January against the current third place team and Joe D'Elia stopped 27 of the 30 shots he faced.
This weekend, the Sun Devils will face a different animal. No D'Elia. No Colin Hekle (54 points). No Jordan Young (22 points) and possibly no Kale Dolinski (53 points) if he is still out due to sickness. The Sun Devils are in need of some offense in the month before the national tournament and it was nice to see them score six goals on Thursday, even if they did allow five goals of their own.
"You know we've been struggling to put the puck in the net all month for the most part. The excuse of they have a hot goalie or whatever has run out," coach Powers said.
But coach, Minot State is arguably the best defensive team in the ACHA. The difference of this series will be on the pads of netminders Wyatt Waselenchuk and Riley Hengen. Both goaltenders have played roughly half of their games and are ranked second and third respectively in terms of save percentage for ACHA goaltenders with at least ten starts. Their sub 1.75 goals against averages are also something worth noting.
Minot State's Logan Herauf and Michael Jordan each have over 40 points this season and combined for 10 power play goals, but outside of them, there are no jaw-dropping threats on offense. It's going to come down to a physical style of hockey in North Dakota.
After Thursday's sloppy performance against a Non-ACHA team in Williston State, the maroon and gold are in dire need of a rebound and what's not a better way than to do it against a fellow top-3 opponent.
Coach Powers commented that the team would need to simplify its offense and not be so concerned with taking the best shots.
"When you're missing who is probably the best player in our league in Colin Hekle and our captain and our clear leader, it's going to take more than just one guy to step into his shoes. It's going to take a bunch of them and I think they'll do it," coach Powers said.
The team want to reach its peak before the National Tournament in two weeks, so the next four games will be important to see what kind of momentum this Sun Devil team can get.