A hockey team can have the best goalie in the world, but if he doesn't have defensive support, it won't mean too much. Luckily for Arizona State, its goalie will not have to worry about that.
The Sun Devils led the ACHA in goals allowed last season (1.44) in part because of freshman goalie Robert Levin, but just ask him and he'll tell you it was because of the men manning the blue line.
Arizona State's defensemen were superb last season, and were young, only graduating one from last year's unit- Brett Prechel. This year will feature no seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
Yesterday we looked at the forwards, and today the defense is up. So how will the defensemen line up? Here's our prediction.
First pair: Brett Blomgren, Drew Newmeyer
It's less of an opinion and more of a fact that Blomgren and Newmeyer were the best pair on the ice all of last season. When the team needed a big stop, it was Blomgren and Newmeyer on the ice.
They were penalty kill specialists and led the team in plus/minus by a significant margin. Throw in Blomgren's newly appointed captaincy, and naming this pair as starters is a no-brainer.
Second pair: Connor Schmidt, Ed McGovern
After the first pair, it gets tougher to predict. Assistant captain Jordan Young will miss significant time to start the year, and he would most likely play in one of these spots. But until he returns, it could be two freshmen that could get second-pair minutes.
Schmidt comes in having played at the NCAA level, McGovern played in the United States Hockey League and the pair are two recruits that coach Greg Powers expects to come in and make the biggest impact immediately, so why not pair them together? They even shoot with opposite hands- Schmidt with his right, McGovern with his left. Maybe Powers decide to split up his high-end recruits, and drop one to third pair, but one way or another, this second pair will be as good as many of the ACHA's top pairs.
Third pair: Gianni Mangone, Alex Temby
The third pair is toughest of all simply because of the math. Three pairs means only six players, and Powers has plenty of choices. Temby and Jarrod Levos were regulars last season, Mangone was the first player to commit to Arizona State in the offseason and Troy Hoban dressed and played as the extra in the ACHA national tournament game. There really is not a wrong choice.
But for the sake of making a stand, Mangone and Temby make the cut here. Powers said when Mangone committed that he had trying to bring him to Tempe for two years, and even more importantly, Mangone can score. Albeit in a different league, he scored 37 points in 48 games last season. Prechel led Sun Devil defensemen with 18 points in 34 games last year.
As for Temby and Levos, flip a coin. Temby gets the edge because Powers called him the most consistent performer at the national tournament, but that was way back in March. It seems like the final pair will be determined in tryouts and practice leading up to the first game of the season. Even if Temby or Levos or Hoban dresses for the first game, it's entirely possible any of the others dress for the second.
Reserves: Jarrod Levos, Troy Hoban, Jordan Young
Much like the forwards, there is not a significant drop-off between whoever dresses to play and who does not. If one player isn't 100 percent to play, Powers can rest him knowing that whoever takes his place will be able to perform at the same high level.