This weekend series marks a lot of "lasts" for the ASU hockey team in the regular season. It's the last regular season games, it's the last regular season game for seniors Liam Norris and Faiz Khan, and it's the last ACHA regular season game in Sun Devil hockey history.
So it's only fitting it's against the rival Arizona Wildcats.
"These are extra special because they're the last ones between the ACHA programs," coach Greg Powers said. "We want to make sure we end it the way all the ASU people want to see us end it."
The Sun Devils (31-3-1) make the drive south Friday afternoon for a two-game set with Arizona (11-20-3) Friday and Saturday night. Because the seedings for the national tournament were revealed Wednesday, the two games in Tucson equate to exhibition games.
ASU will enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed. Arizona did not qualify for the tournament.
"We're going to treat these games like they're any other very important games," Powers said. "We expect to see a very good effort out of them in front of a very big crowd to end their season and go into next season on a high note and we want to go into nationals on a high note."
It's been a one-sided series this season, with ASU taking all six meetings between the two teams, eight in a row including last year, and outscoring Arizona 30-4. Dating back more than five years, ASU has won 45 of the last 46 games, with the only loss coming on senior night last year in Tempe. A series sweep would mean a season sweep in five of the last six years.
For Wildcat fans, hope comes in the form of the Hogan twins, Brian and John. Since their arrival to the team in January, the pair have combined for 25 points in 12 games each, with Brian leading the way at eight goals and seven assists.
The brother dynamic is not a new one to ASU followers, nor is having an impact player arrive in January. Since ASU sophomore forward David Norris' first game Jan. 10 against Central Oklahoma, he has eight goals and nine assists, which equals out to 17 points in just eight games.
The two rivals always play a physical game and to the players, it does not matter that the games do not count toward any standings.
"To us, it doesn't matter, we want to beat UA every single time we play them and we want to beat them handily," sophomore forward Michael Cummings said. "Just because these are technically exhibition games doesn't mean it means anything less."
If there is any sort of chipiness Friday or Saturday night, it might center around Cummings. During the last series between the two in Tempe, Cummings was throwing himself around the ice, even injuring Arizona defenseman Kevin Golden.
He isn't worried about any retribution.
"No, not from those guys," Cummings said. "They're not intimidating in any way."
Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. both nights at Tucson Convention Center.
The postseason awards for the Western Collegiate Hockey League had a distinct maroon and gold flair.
Liam Norris took home the top prize, the conference's MVP award. He led the WCHL with 35 assists and placed second with 48 points. His assist total was 14 more than the next-closest Sun Devil (Seam Murphy) and his points were 10 more than Eric Rivard who finished second in points.
But it was the All-WCHL First Team where ASU flexed its muscles. Of the six spots, Oklahoma's Bryce Johnson won led the conference in points was the only non-Sun Devil on the list. Norris and Murphy were honored as the forwards, Drew Newmeyer and Connor Schmidt were named top defensemen in the conference and Robert Levin was named the WCHL's best goalie.
Ryan Belonger was named to the All-WCHL Second Team.
- Forward Ryan Belonger broke a knuckle blocking a puck while playing for Team USA for the World University Games in Spain and is out this weekend.
- Forward Chris Burkemper also sustained an injury in Spain, spraining an ankle. He is out for the weekend as well.
- Defenseman Jarrod Levos will miss the weekend's games with an undisclosed injury.