No. 17 Arizona State (10-7-3) is back on home ice after three consecutive weekends on the road, as the Sun Devils host Michigan Tech (12-8-1) at Oceanside Ice Arena this weekend.
The Huskies currently sit at No. 15 in the PairWise rankings while garnering 27 votes in the USCHO rankings.
On the flip side, after not recording a win last weekend against No. 16 Harvard, ASU dropped down to the deep end of both the PairWise and USCHO polls.
The 17th-ranked Sun Devils currently sit at No. 16 in the PairWise, meaning that they are right on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament field.
Nonetheless, it’s only early January and there is a lot of hockey left to play. This series is big for both sides, as ASU hasn’t won a game in their last three contests, and Michigan Tech is coming off a Tournament win in Detroit at the Great Lakes Invitational.
At the event, the Huskies took down both Michigan State and Michigan out of the Big Ten. Michigan Tech also sits in a tie for third place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) with a record of 8-6.
Thus, it’s a big set of games for both sides as they look to engrain themselves in a better position to make the postseason.
With two games in Tempe on tap to begin the New Year, here is more to know about the matchup:
What Time/Where to Watch
Both games can be viewed online on the Pac-12 live stream. Puck drop for game one is this Saturday, January 4 at 7:05 p.m. local time, and Sunday’s puck drop is set for 3:05 p.m. local time.
Players to Watch
The Huskies are a physical team that boasts talent up front, including their two leading scorers, which are sophomore forwards Alec Broetzman and Trenton Bliss. Both players have combined for 29 points, and Broetzman leads the team in goals with nine.
On the blue line, defensemen Eric Gotz and Seamus Donohue both have double-digit point totals as well.
Between the Pipes
Senior goaltender Matt Jurusik has taken the bulk of the starts for the Huskies in net. He holds an 11-5-1 record with a .926 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average in his 17 games played.
The team’s backup is junior Robbie Beydoun, but he has made just four starts with a record of 1-2.
The history between these two programs isn’t exactly a friendly one, and it dates back to the 2017-18 season when these two schools met three times in one year.
ASU went 2-1 against the Huskies, including an overtime game-winner at Michigan Tech and a tournament win when the Sun Devils made history by winning the inaugural Ice Vegas Invitational at T-Mobile Arena.
The Devils fended off Michigan Tech with a hard-fought 3-2 victory in the championship game.
What the Players/Coaches had to say about the opponent:
Coach Powers: “They are always good games and they are always a really good team. They have obviously proven that with just winning the GLI (Great Lakes Invitational). They beat two Big Ten teams back-to-back so they are really good. Their schedule is no joke...It’s a top-15 PairWise team. It doesn’t get any easier for us.”
Senior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk: “They are a big and hard-working team. They like to dump the puck in and they are coming all out at you. You got to be ready for that, and you got to counter-balance that with hard work yourself. That’s what it really comes down to.”
-Last weekend at Harvard, junior forward Dom Garcia was not in the lineup for both games as he is still working back from a lower body injury. Powers provided an update on his recovery.
“He’s progressing really well. He’s strong so we are hoping he’s back within the next week,” Powers said. “He’ll be out this weekend, but we are hoping to get better news next week. He’s progressing really well.”
Replacing Garcia on the fourth line has been a couple different players, including sophomore Connor Stuart, who is listed as a defenseman but has played forward on multiple occasions this year.
Additionally, redshirt freshman forward Peter Zhong started on the fourth line in game two against Harvard last weekend, and sophomore forward Demetrios Koumontzis was put down as a healthy scratch.
Powers addressed how it has been putting together that fourth unit with Garcia out.
“What sucks for Dom is the game he got hurt, I moved him up. He was on the third line and he was on the second power play,” Powers said. “He earned all that time, and then he got hurt. But he’s a big cog. He plays in defensive situations, he’s a great penalty killer for us, but other guys have stepped up pretty well in his absence, and they are going to have to continue to.”
-One last note is on sophomore goaltender Evan DeBrouwer, who was put through the gauntlet in December. Minus ASU’s series with Denver, all of the Sun Devils games were back-to-back, Saturday/Sunday turnarounds with an earlier start time in the Sunday game.
DeBrouwer was pulled in both of ASU’s games against Omaha on Dec. 22, and against Harvard on Dec. 28. He also didn’t start game two against the Crimson, though he did replace Max Prawdzik midway through the second period.
Nevertheless, he has been the man nearly all year for the Sun Devils, and Powers believes his goaltender will continue to stand up to the task after a rigorous month away from home.
“Getting him a rest was the main reason I started Max...But Evan got a couple periods off and hopefully a mental reset,” Powers said. “After that, he looked like himself and he really found his game...Hopefully he’s back and in a good place.”