Fresh off a three-goal loss to No. 5 Oklahoma, the Arizona State Sun Devils prepare themselves for a series against seventeenth ranked Central Oklahoma this weekend.
Earlier this season, ASU beat the Bronchos 4-0 in Central Oklahoma, but this time, the team is a lot more banged up. The Sun Devils have the same list of injuries and now we can add freshman defenseman Jordan Young to that list after he re-aggravated his shoulder and left the game midway through the third period.
The Sun Devils played decent hockey against the Sooners on Thursday night, but goaltender Joe D'Elia did not look like the D'Elia of last week when he stopped everything. The difference in Thursday night's game was that Oklahoma capitalized on nearly every scoring opportunity they had and the Sun Devils couldn't match them every time. The good signs are that the veteran leaders are becoming more vocal off the ice and ASU had a couple four minute spurts where they dominated Oklahoma in all aspects of the game but just failed to find the back of the net.
ASU will more than likely lose their number one ranking next week, but they have a chance to regain some momentum in the final month and a half of the regular season. Central Oklahoma drives into Tempe with a 10-12 record and the Sun Devils need to watch out for the speed of the Bronchos. They do not have a lot of pure talent when you compare them to other teams in the ACHA, but they will compete and battle for 60 minutes.
Riley Spraggs leads the team with nine goals and 19 points and get this; their team is made up on all freshmen and sophomores and one senior. This is without question the youngest team in the ACHA considering the top three point scorers are all freshmen. One of Central Oklahoma’s biggest victories this season has to be taking three of four games against Lindenwood University
Do not be alarmed by this team’s lack of experience. Sure, this year is not the year they will compete in the National Tournament but they play like kids having fun. The Sun Devils did that in the first half of the season, but with all the bad luck that has come their way, ASU has been rather quiet on the rink. The maroon and gold have only beaten their opponent by two or more goals once in the 2013 calendar year. The Sun Devils are 4-2 in January thus far and two decisive wins this weekend should give the players confidence moving forward.
Kale Dolinski, Colin Hekle and Danny McAuliffe are the three Sun Devils that have over 40 points. Hekle (44) and McAuliffe (40) have a chance to catch up to Dolinski’s 46 this weekend while the Saskatchewan native sits out with an upper-body injury this weekend. Dolinski is listed as day-to-day and could return to the ice next weekend against Rhode Island.
David Jantzie has been one of the best and most consistent Sun Devils since the holiday season and last night he played in his 100th game in his ASU career.
Expect Joe D’Elia to get a night off this weekend because he has worked hard against four top-15 opponents and head coach Greg Powers needs to keep D’Elia in top shape mentally and physically heading into the finals months. No word yet on if Kyle Dietriech or Corey Frank will see action between the pipes.
It should be another interesting weekend in Tempe and fans can expect to see a hard fought battle from both sides. The puck drops at 8 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday night.