(Photo: Allyson Cummings)
Despite being swept by Minot State over the weekend, this team has bigger aspirations in mind.
In the first weekend after the National Tournament seeds were announced, Arizona State hit the road for a weekend series against Williston State and No. 3 Minot State.
Thursday night was not as smooth of a victory as ASU would have hoped, but senior Dan Anderson capitalized in the shootout scoring the game-winning goal. Friday and Saturday were different stories.
The Beavers played well, but ASU was banged up for yet another weekend and head coach Greg Powers had to shuffle up the lines quite a bit.
"I was proud of the guys on Friday and Saturday I don't think we had anything left in the tank," coach Powers said. "I mean it's disappointing because I still think with the guys we have out on the ice, we are still a better team... but at the end of the day you don't want to take anything away from Minot. They beat us and they played well."
Forwards Colin Hekle and Kory Chisholm, defensemen Darcy Charrois and Jordan Young and goaltender Joe D'Elia were all out this weekend and Kale Dolinski only played on Friday night do to sickness. From an offensive production standpoint, the injured maroon and gold skaters have accounted for 159 points this season.
Fortunately, the majority of them are expected to play this weekend to close the regular season out against Arizona in Tucson. The only relevance of the two games against the Wildcats is that the Sun Devils are looking to go four straight seasons without losing to their cross state rivals.
Though being swept on the road is tough for ASU hockey to experience this late in the season, the team has bigger visions in mind.
"Come Nationals, I think we have the league where we want them right now. You know a lot of people aren't looking at us like they were looking at us two months ago," coach Powers said.
Back-to-back first round loses in Nationals has been the headline story for the Sun Devil program, but there is no reason why that can't be changed. Besides a few players on this team, nobody knows what it's like to win at Nationals.
"I these guys get just one game, they are going to smell it, they are going to taste it, and I don't know if they are going to be stopped," Powers firmly stated.
With a healthy roster expected for the trip out to Chicago, this Sun Devil team could quickly rise back to the top. There are seven players on this team who are averaging more than a point per game, and junior forward Kale Dolinski is second on the team with 53 points and is the only one thus far to surpass the 30 goal mark.
Captain Hekle missed the last handful of games and he still leads the team with 54 points and 6 shorthanded goals. When ASU has all of its pieces in line, and coach can send out the most competitive lines to the ice for every shift, this Sun Devils team is tough to beat.
There is one more positive thing though.
"I love our draw," coach Powers said after finding what teams made the ACHA tournament.
The question will not come down to can they stay healthy and is there enough juice left in the box for one more squeeze through the beginning of March. Everyone knows what this team is capable of doing when they are healthy (19-0 start to the season, anyone?).
Playing five games on the road to close out the 2013 season may be just what this team needs for motivation and confidence heading into Nationals.