In search of its first win this season, Arizona State’s (0-3-1) road gauntlet continues as the Sun Devils dive into frigid Madison weather this weekend to take on No. 14 Wisconsin at La Bahn Arena.
Similar to Michigan and many other programs in the conference, the Badgers are loaded with pro-level talent and skill under head coach Tony Granato.
After an underperforming 2019-20 campaign (14-20-2) with a lot of young talent, they are off to a solid start thus far in 2020-21, going 4-2 with series sweeps over Notre Dame and No. 15 Penn State, including putting up 13 goals in two games against the Nittany Lions.
It’s another tall task, but ASU will have to break through if it wants to come up with the Devils’ first victory of 2020. If the defensive zone isn’t tight and the puck management is poor, it could be a very long weekend for the maroon and gold.
Here are some notes and things to look out for in this weekend’s two-game series.
What Time/Where To Watch
Game one is today, Nov. 28 and puck drop will be at 6 p.m. local time. Sunday’s game on Nov. 29 will be at 3 p.m. MST.
All four of the Sun Devils games thus far have been on the Big Ten Networks, but this weekend it will be easier to find ASU hockey on your television set.
Both matchups can be seen locally on Fox Sports Arizona, with the broadcast being called and produced by the Fox Sports Wisconsin hockey crew.
Players To Watch
There are nine NHL draft picks on Wisco’s roster, highlighted by star winger Cole Caufield, who was selected 15th overall by the Montreal Canadians in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Caufield, who showcased his talents at the international level in the World Juniors with Team USA, just earned Big Ten player of the week after a four-goal, two-assist weekend against Penn State.
Although not the biggest in stature (only 5-foot-7), Caufield makes up for it with his speed, stick-handling, and a wicked shot and quick release that is lethal on the Badgers power play.
So far this season, he has eight points in six games, and is definitely a special talent to watch.
As for other standouts, forward and Buffalo Sabres draft pick Linus Weissbach has nine points to lead all scorers. On the blue line, freshman defenseman Anthony Kehrer also has four assists and is a plus-6 in his six games played.
Between The Pipes
Senior graduate transfer Robbie Beydoun has been the number one guy this year for Granato, playing every minute in net. He has allowed 15 goals on 216 shots faced, holding a .931 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average.
As a graduate student, Beydoun previously played for three seasons at Michigan Tech, where he held a .918 save percentage in limited action. He played in just 28 games during that time and now has his new opportunity to grab the reigns in Madison.
Although they haven’t played any minutes this year, the two netminders behind Beydoun are freshmen Cameron Rowe and Ben Garrity.
The series history is brief, and it’s not pretty for Sun Devil fans. ASU is 0-4 all-time with sweeps at the hands of the Badgers both in 2015 and this past February.
As some can likely recall, the Sun Devils gave up 13 goals over the course of two games, dropping both matchups at the Kohl Center by a combined score of 13-8.
2019 Los Angeles Kings fifth-overall pick Alex Turcotte and New York Rangers 22nd overall pick K’Andre Miller were on that Badgers squad, but have since moved on to the professional level.
Quotes From Players/Coaches on the matchup:
Coach Powers: “The focus is defend, defend, defend, and try to keep as many pucks out of our net as we can...If we keep that up, we’ll start to get some wins.”
Freshman forward Ryan O’Reilly: “We just have to be responsible in our own zone. Any mistakes with teams in this league, they can capitalize really fast. With the skill against Wisconsin, I just think we have to be really responsible and make sure we are getting out of our zone and making clean breakouts.”
-Captain and forward Johnny Walker will once again be out this weekend. He missed last weekend’s series at Michigan State and is “series-to-series”, according to Powers. Although he’s looked and felt better with his injury, Powers still ruled him as a no go for this Wisconsin series.
-Offensive woes. ASU has just two goals in four games. Whether it’s been the loss of Walker, bad bounces, not enough offensive zone time, or gripping the stick too tight, Powers believes the puck luck will come around.
“We had a lot of really good chances against Michigan State and they had good goaltending,” Powers said. “There’s not much we need to change, just some puck management stuff and making the most of the opportunities we’re getting. Someone has to put one in the back of the net. We missed wide open nets in that game on Saturday and guys have to execute.”
-Wisconsin transfer Sean Dhooghe will be returning to his old stomping grounds for the first time this season, and he’ll go head-to-head against his older brother Jason, who is a senior on the Badgers. Sean had 56 points and played in over 100 games during his three seasons at Wisco.
“When it comes to me going up against them, I’m just going to treat it like any other game and any other opportunity to show up and be the best that I can for the guys around me, and let’s get our first win,” Dhooghe said of facing his old team.
-One other storyline going into this weekend’s series is the relationship between the two head coaches. The hockey world is small and this story is an example of that. Granato’s son played for Powers at ASU during the programs club days in the ACHA.
Thus, the two coaches have a very good relationship and respect for one another. Granato even helped the Sun Devils with their Big Ten slate this year.
“Tony was hugely instrumental in us getting this partnership with the Big Ten because he and I have such a good relationship,” Powers said. “Having him in our corner was huge...He’s just an unbelievable human being.”