No. 20 Arizona State (7-4-1) is gearing up for a heavyweight tilt this weekend when the No. 4 Denver Pioneers (9-3-2) come to Arizona for the first time ever.
The Pioneers are one of the national powers in the sport, and they are full of firepower coming into this weekend. The program boasts eight national championships, with the most recent one coming in 2017.
Denver is coming off a Frozen Four run last year in which its season came to a close at the hands of current Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar and the University of Massachusetts.
This year’s Pioneers team returns as a hungry group looking to make another deep run under head coach David Carle, who is the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I hockey.
Denver has plenty of talent and is used to playing good competition in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), and they will look forward to a big series this weekend with the Sun Devils, who just jumped back into the USCHO top-20 this week.
Here is more to know about the two-game set with the Pioneers:
What Time/Where to Watch
Friday’s game with Denver drops the puck at 7:05 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena. The matchup can be viewed on the Pac-12 Live Stream.
Saturday’s game however, will be out in Glendale at Gila River Arena on the Pac-12 Network. That contest has an earlier start time, as things are set to get underway at 4:30 p.m. local time.
Players to Watch
As noted above, Denver’s roster is loaded with skill. They have eight NHL draft picks, and among those eight picks are their three leading scorers. 2017 Chicago Blackhawks second round selection Ian Mitchell has 12 points with nine assists as a defenseman.
Additionally, sophomore forward Emilio Petterson has 12 points, and freshman forward Bobby Brink leads the Pioneers in goals with six.
Petterson is a 2018 sixth-round selection of the Calgary Flames, and Brink was drafted this past summer in the second-round by the Philadelphia Flyers after putting up 68 points in juniors for the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL).
Between the Pipes
In net, Denver freshman goaltender Magnus Chrona beat out two returning Pioneers to earn the starting job in the crease. The native of Sweden is a 2018 fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he is off to a nice beginning to his college hockey career.
In 12 games played, Chrona has a .920 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against average. Backup goaltenders Michael Corson and Devin Cooley have also seen time in one game apiece, and they both recorded victories in their lone starts.
The only other matchup between these two programs came in 2017 at Denver. Similar to this year, the Pioneers were a top-five team and they sat at No. 3 in the country.
They were able to take advantage of a young Sun Devil program, and they took it to ASU with 5-1 and 6-1 wins in a two-game series.
What coaches/players had to say about the opponent:
Coach Powers: “They are a blue blood in every way. They have won a ton of national championships, they have been to some Frozen Fours recently, and it’s a great team. It’s a really good team. It’s exciting to be able to host such a great program and I think it’s exciting for our fans here locally to go watch us play such a good program. Hopefully people come out in bunches and enjoy it.”
Junior forward James Sanchez: “If we can grab a couple wins this weekend, it will set us apart and show people that ASU, it’s a program that’s not messing around. This is a program, and everyone is going to want to be apart of this. I think this weekend can definitely show that we can play anybody and beat anybody.”
Senior forward Tyler Busch: “It’s a big test for us. I think anytime that you have a top-10 program and a big established team at a program like that, it’s pretty easy to get up for those games. Especially at home, we’ve proven ourselves over the last couple of years that we are a good program too now. It’s another big test for us, and we’re accepting the challenge and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
-This week, Coach Powers was asked if there was any further comment about the team’s situation regarding the dismissal of freshman forwards Logan Jenuwine and Carson Briere. Powers said there was nothing left to say on the subject, except for a short farewell offering.
“It is what it is,” Powers said. “The only comment that I will have ever on it is that I wish both of them the best moving forward.”
-Friday’s game with Denver will feature another new sweater for the Sun Devils as they unveiled their “storm” uniforms earlier this week. Players were excited about the new look, and had nothing but thanks to give to Head Equipment Manager Jon Laughner.
“They are pretty sick,” Sanchez said. “Jon is a wizard with all of that stuff...I have to give him credit for that. Those are really cool jerseys.”
-One last note has to deal with the chirping between both teams. Of course, there’s always some friendly and not so friendly chatter between benches over the course of a hockey game, but this week’s cordial trash talk between Denver and ASU has taken place over Twitter.
Games aren’t won and lost with words or over a keyboard, but if you don’t have a Twitter account, here is the discourse that you missed between both sides:
*5 year, but who's counting... ♀️ https://t.co/vyABkjB9Mi— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) December 5, 2019
Yeah, and we put all the asbestos over the visitors bench. https://t.co/fWeMZuK2n6— Sun Devil Hockey (@SunDevilHockey) December 5, 2019
Words have been spoken, and the puck will be dropped soon enough. ASU and Denver go to battle starting tonight.