ASU Hockey Hosts 25 Games in 2013-14

Coach Greg Powers feels this season could be even better than last. - Michelle Hekle

The ASU hockey team 2013-14 schedule was released this week, and the schedule presents potential for another record-breaking season.

Arizona State hockey finished last year's 40-game season in record fashion.

From defeating their first NCAA D-I opponent to keeping the 32-game win streak alive over UA, the Sun Devils continued their stretch of firsts with the most wins in the team's history and the programs' first final four appearance.

But that's the past, and coach Greg Powers has had his eyes set on the 2013-14 season since the final buzzer went off in Illinois.

Now he knows exactly what his Sun Devils will encounter on the road to Delaware and the 2014 ACHA Championship.

Schedule Release

After facing opponents like Penn State, Lindenwood and Robert Morris last season, the Sun Devils may be able to breathe a little easier after taking a glance at this year's schedule, but not by much.

"Every year, we schedule as tough of a schedule as possible," Powers said. "This year, we had to make some serious adjustments with it being the first year of league play in the new WCHL.

"We also had Navy coming in to play us in our home opener and for reasons out of their control, they had to cancel."

With only 36 games compared to last year's 40, ASU will face each of their five WCHL opponents - UA, Colorado, Colorado State, Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma.

Outside of their conference, the Sun Devils host the 2012 ACHA Champions in Delaware, 2013 Champions in Minot State, Liberty, York-CIS and Iowa State.

"We have the last two national champs coming into our building, so that should be a great challenge," Powers said. "We are also looking forward to starting a home and home with the University of Illinois, where next season they will travel to Tempe."

Watch Out

The Sun Devils had a few eyebrow-raising games last season that had fans on the edge of their seats.

This year, there are a few opponents coming to Oceanside Ice Arena that may do the same for Sun Devil hockey fans.

As always, the ASU vs. UA rivalry brings the most attention, and the streak is still alive at 32. The Wildcats come to Tempe at the beginning of the season on October 4 and 5.

Three weeks later, Delaware makes the long flight to Arizona for just the second time in the last four years. The Blue Hens made the ACHA tournament in 2013 and were eliminated in the first round by Illinois, just prior to having to play ASU.

Two weeks later, the Sun Devils host the 2013 ACHA National Champs. Minot State handed ASU its first ACHA loss last season. They also were the only team to beat the Sun Devils in back-to-back games all of last season, as well as the only team ASU didn't beat outside of the national tournament in 2013.

For a Thanksgiving feast, coach Powers and the Sun Devils host elite-eight finisher Iowa State.

Just over a month after returning from another two-game series in Tucson, ASU will then host Liberty for one game. The Flames gave the Sun Devils a run for their money last season, taking the game to a shootout.

In hopes the streak will still be alive, ASU will then welcome the Wildcats with "open arms" as the season heats up in late January.

"We are taking every step here at ASU to build a championship culture and playing for a title in what I think will be the best league in the ACHA will certainly not only help us, but also the five other teams," Powers said.

The fact that the league champion receives an automatic bid into the ACHA tournament also sweetens the pot for the Sun Devils.

Prediction

It's no secret that the Sun Devils still face a challenging schedule in 2013-14 in the WCHL.

They have a tough road schedule, but also host the last two ACHA champions.

On the other side, Oceanside and Sun Devil fans host 25 of their 36 games this season, thoroughly taking advantage of home ice advantage.

ASU started 18-0 in 2012 and a start like that would include two-game sweeps of Illinois, Delaware, UA and Central Oklahoma, including one-game victories over Oklahoma and Minot State.

This is definitely possible for the Sun Devils, who started hotter than every team last season.

Two of those three losses may come on the road, with tough trips to Illinois and Liberty in Virginia, which is considered one of the toughest places to play in the ACHA.

Now one question many ask is could the Sun Devils finish undefeated?

An undefeated season is much tougher than most would assume, especially 36 games. The main concern is whether or not ASU can remain healthy for the length of the season.

In 2012, injuries to Kale Dolinski and Colin Hekle were part of the few losses suffered towards the end.

After playing 40 games last season and finishing 33-7, and taking into account the additions of 14 top recruits, the Sun Devils and coach Powers are much more likely to see something close to a 33-3 record. However, don't be surprised to see less than three in the loss column.

Reach the reporter at msterrel@asu.edu and follow on Twitter at @ASUreporter_MT

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