Following a two-game thumping at No. 6 Michigan, Arizona State returns to the ice this weekend against unranked Michigan State this Thursday and Friday.
The Spartans boast 10 newcomers on a revamped team after many players from last year’s squad left due to graduation. This weekend’s games will be MSU’s first games in the 2020-21 season.
Looking to heal their wounds, the Sun Devils are in search of their first win of the year. Here is a look at the matchup:
What Time/Where To Watch
Both games drop the puck at 4 p.m. local time and can be viewed on the Big Ten Networks. Thursday’s game is on Big Ten Network, and Friday’s is on Big Ten Network Plus. You can also listen in to the games on Michigan State’s radio feed.
Players to Watch
Among active NCAA career leaders, only one player has scored more goals in his current collegiate career than ASU forward Johnny Walker. His name is Mitchell Lewandowski from Michigan State. He has lit the lamp 43 times going into his senior season.
Last year he had 20 points (8 G, 12 A) in 36 games played. Along with Lewandowski is one of the Spartans other top point producers - junior defenseman Dennis Cesana.
Both players had All Big Ten recognition last year. On the flip side of that, one of the key departures for Sparty is forward Patrick Khodorenko, who led the team in goals last season with 16.
Between The Pipes
The goaltending situation for the Spartans is somewhat of a mystery. Last year’s starter, John Lethemon, was the number one guy, playing 33 games and getting the nod nearly every night for coach Danton Cole. He graduated and is now out of the program.
Lethemon’s backup was sophomore Drew DeRidder, who played in just four games, yielding a 2.80 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.
Based on experience, DeRidder would figure to be the number one. Though, the team also has two freshmen in Jon Mor and Pierce Charleson.
Both netminders had sub-900 save percentages in their respective junior leagues, as Charleson had a .890 with with the Brooks Bandits (Alberta Junior Hockey League), and Mor recorded a .879 save percentage between the Minnesota Wilderness (North American Hockey League) and the Langley Rivermen (British Columbia Hockey League).
The history between these schools all spans over the last two years. The Sun Devils are 3-1 over the last two seasons. The team swept the Spartans in 2018-19 before splitting last year’s series in East Lansing.
Game two went to Michigan State thanks to an overtime game-winner from Lewandowski.
What Coach/Players had to say about the opponent:
Coach Powers: “They’re very well structured, they’re always above the puck. They’re not easy to generate transition on, but we seem to matchup with how they play pretty well. They’re going to have a good team, they’re well coached...We knew what we were getting into when we agreed to do (the schedule) and we’ll just focus on getting one back Thursday.”
Forward Sean Dhooghe: “I think we’re going into these games as they are two must-win games. That’s the first mindset and where everybody is at...I don’t think it changes any of what we want to do or the way we want to play, it’s just more execution.”
-Walker likely won’t play against Michigan State after suffering an injury in the Michigan series. Powers noted that he’s doing okay and will likely plead his case to be in the lineup, but it’s in the best long-term interest to give him a rest. He’s day-to-day and series-to-series.
-Powers had nothing but high praise after last weekend’s beat down at Michigan. The Wolverines jumped into the USCHO top-10 after their impressive showing and the Sun Devil head coach was very complimentary of the group. In recent years, ASU has played a lot of top players nationally that have gone on to the NHL, but the Michigan buzzsaw took the cake for the Sun Devil head coach. He labeled them as the best team he’s seen during his time at the Division I level.
It’s easy to see Powers point, too. ASU was just outmatched. The Wolverines feature many high-end draft picks, including Thomas Bordeleau (2020, 38th overall, San Jose Sharks), Brendan Brisson (2020, 29th overall, Vegas Golden Knights), John Beecher (2019, 30th overall, Boston Bruins), and Cam York (2019, 14th overall, Philadelphia Flyers).
“There’s a difference between elite college talent that’s really good at this level, and a team full of first-round picks,” Powers said. “Kudos to that staff for doing such a good job putting that roster together.”
-Expect freshman Cole Brady to be back in net for ASU in game one against Michigan State. He made 44 saves (passing Joey Daccord for a freshman record) and looked more sharp than junior Evan DeBrouwer in the Michigan series. Powers said it’s likely he’ll get the nod, though, DeBrouwer shouldn’t just be written off as the number two. He’ll have more of his opportunities in this daunting road gauntlet.
-ASU’s series on Nov. 28-29 at Wisconsin is going to be picked up on broadcasts both locally and nationally. The Sun Devils games will be aired regionally on Fox Sports Arizona and nationally on NHL Network. The broadcast will be produced by Fox Sports Wisconsin. Additionally, ASU’s game against Notre Dame on Dec. 3 will also be aired on NHL Network.