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ASU Hockey: What we learned from opening weekend

Arizona State blew out its DII opponent as expected, but the team learned that its headed in the right direction.

An assist leader has emerged and he is not a senior nor a captain.
An assist leader has emerged and he is not a senior nor a captain.
Photo: Allyson Cummings

Arizona State hockey outscored San Diego State 23-2 this weekend and the Sun Devils made minimal mistakes.

Both Aztec goals were breakaway chances and Joe D'Elia and Robert Levin allowed the two tallies. For future series, the Sun Devils cannot afford to give up those opportunities because SDSU capitalized on the only two legitimate chances they were given this weekend.

Fifteen new Sun Devils saw the ice for the first time this weekend and they were one of the bright points of the weekend. Arizona State is 2-0 on the year and they face DII Weber State next weekend. Let's take a look at the three things we learned about this team

The new recruits are the real deal

ASU will be a top five team in the ACHA for years to come based on what we saw from the freshman class on Friday and Saturday.

"We went with a youthful lineup and I think we proved how deep we are obviously," head coach Greg Powers said.

Sean Murphy is what everyone thought he would be and more. When he took the ice for his first shift with Faiz Khan and Colin Hekle, he looked composed and had immediate chemistry with those two. He finished tied for the team lead with three goals this weekend.

Zack Holstrom is leading the team with five assists, Chris Burkemper had three goals and Jarrod Levos led the freshmen defensemen with four assists. Forward Michael Cummings also scored in his first two shifts for Arizona State and he will be competing for more playing time this fall.

In game one, Holstrom showed his best Patrick Kane spin-o-rama move when he connected with Burkemper for a goal.

"It's an option coming down on a 2-on-1, you know? He slides and you can do a spin-o-rama and if not then you can try to thread the needle, but I got lucky really. It found (Burkemper's) stick pretty good," Holstrom said.

"I think a lot of people saw the future of Sun Devil hockey and it was good to see," Powers said.

This team is a lot more physical

The defensive core played more physical this weekend than almost all of last year, which is great news since this team is going to contend with some of the bigger teams in the league.

Senior Brett Prechel lit up the stat sheet and bruised the Aztecs with his physicality this weekend. Levos, Ritchie and Blomgren played exceptionally big and the team's third and fourth lines which consist of mainly new recruits shined.

"I think (the physicality) just has to do with younger guys trying to establish themselves on a lineup," Powers said. "The best thing we have going for us is the internal competition because these guys are fighting every practice and every game like this matters."

Both wingers Patrick Yudez and Burkemper play with a chip on their shoulder and the big body forwards are able to turn a physical game into an offensive one.

Were there any negatives?

It's clear that the best is yet to come considering defenseman recruit Alex Temby and forward Eric Rivard did not skate this weekend. Also, returners Colin Hekle, Faiz Khan, Kale Dolinski, Danny McAuliffe, Liam Norris, and Jordan Young each only played in one of the two games this weekend.

When essentially the top two lines sat during the Saturday night game, senior Brian McGinty stepped up with four points and played well as both a goal scorer and playmaker with his linemates.

"I was really happy with how Brian McGinty played. Both nights he played hard, he goes hard every shift and he's really flying this year. I think he is really reenforcing his role as a leader on this team," Powers said.

Coach Powers had a hard time picking out one or two players who had a strong weekend because he felt a lot of people deserved merit so it shows you how far this program has progressed over the summer.

The Sun Devils looked sharp on the power play as they went 4-for-8 and they were perfect on the kill. Arizona State needs to solidify its lines so the skaters can continue to work on their chemistry. Also, the only goals the team allowed were off a turnover in the offensive zone and a situation where the defense pinched and then got beat in a foot race.

This week in practice, expect the team to work on fine tuning some smaller things of their game and minimizing mistakes with the puck so they don't turn into east breakaways or chances.

"There are always things you can work on," Powers said. "Just minor tweaks defensively. Our transition wasn't as sharp and as quick as I want it to be. With repetition and practice it will get better."