The Sun Devils celebrate a goal against Arizona in early February. - (Allyson Cummings - Walter Cronkite Sports Network)
The Sun Devils have their hopes set on winning the National Championship, but will they compromise their 30-game winning streak against the Arizona Wildcats to improve their odds?
Few words do justice in explaining the rivalry between the Arizona State and University of Arizona hockey teams.
Desire, passion, and hatred help tell the story of the Cactus Cup, but for the Sun Devils, the best adjective to describe the rivalry is dominant.
After a pair of victories in early February in Tempe, the Sun Devils extended their seemingly endless winning streak against the Wildcats to 30 games.
If the Sun Devils can sweep Arizona in Tucson this weekend, that would mark four straight years of victories.
However, with the ACHA National Tournament approaching and a roster beaten and depleted by injury, Arizona State's streak could be vulnerable.
The Wildcats remain bitter after being squeezed out of the National Tournament picture, and the pair of games this weekend represents their version of postseason play.
Coach Greg Powers knows his Sun Devils have more important games remaining, but that doesn't change his team's mentality heading into the road trip.
"We're going to go down to Tucson for twenty-four hours and focus on U of A. The guys are looking at nationals, it's natural, it's ok," Powers said. "Again, we want to go down to Tucson and get two wins."
In their last matchup, the Wildcats inched ever closer to breaking the streak, as they dropped a devastating Friday night matchup in overtime in Tempe.
Arizona has had the Sun Devils on the ropes at multiple points throughout the season series, but the Wildcats have struggled to break through.
Andrew Murmes, Brian Slugocki, and Ansel Ivens-Anderson form a potent front line, but Colin Hekle and Kale Dolinski seem to get the better of the Wildcats every time.
With Hekle and a few other Sun Devils nursing injuries this weekend and the Wildcats desperately pushing to end their futility against Arizona State, these games takes on a whole new meaning for Arizona.
Despite the significance of the streak, Coach Powers said he will not push players to play if they aren't 100 percent.
"Right now, I'm not planning to. We have enough healthy bodies that we should be able to get through," Powers said.
If the Sun Devils are susceptible to losing at least one game down in Tucson, it appears as though the Saturday game will be the Wildcats' best opportunity to secure a victory.
Coach Powers indicated that the first game of the series was most important to him, and that he may use Saturday to rest some of his regulars.
"Friday, with who we have healthy, we're playing to win. Then we'll take Saturday as it comes," Powers said.
Sun Devil senior Dan Anderson also talked about the importance of the Friday night matchup.
"It's a big weekend for both teams. Both teams are very good, so Friday night both teams will come out ready to play," Anderson said.
A series sweep for Arizona State remains important, especially in the eyes of the Sun Devil seniors.
Defenseman Brian Parson has strong feelings about the rivalry, and after nearly four full seasons of beating the Wildcats, he can't imagine the feelings of losing a Cactus Cup game.
"Well, being a senior, it would be a huge accomplishment to go 32-0 against them," Parson said.
If the Sun Devils played any other opponent this weekend, the team would likely be all-in and focused solely on the National Tournament. However, the Sun Devils take such pride in their streak that Coach Powers isn't quite ready to mail the games in and call the series a tune-up.
"We're going down there to win. Make no mistake about it," Powers said.
While the Sun Devils' ultimate goal is a National Championship, few of their secondary motives matter more than the beating the Wildcats.
If there was ever a weekend for the streak to be broken, this would be it.
With the deeply rooted hatred between these two sides, it's impossible to believe the Sun Devils would do anything to give the Wildcats the slightest chance at ending the streak.