PREVIEW: Alabama-Huntsville Strolls Into Town For Two Against ASU

By Seth Askelson // NCAA Hockey Beat Writer for Blaze Sports

TEMPE, AZ         When Arizona State announced that they would be starting an NCAA Division I team, it was tough to think that a team in a Sun Belt area could be successful in the area of College Hockey.

Especially in the Valley of the Sun, where the professional team has struggled for the past half-decade.

Photo: Weston DeWitt / Blaze Sports

But College Hockey has found success in an uncommon region.

The University of Alabama-Huntsville have been operating as an NCAA D-I program starting in the 1987-1988 season, then restarted into a top level program in 1998 after a six-season stint in NCAA Division II.

Doug Ross had been the coach for the first 14 D-I seasons, and he complied a 217-199-31 record and enjoyed eight seasons with an over-.500 finish. Since Ross’s retirement, the Chargers have gone 57-243-30, including a 1-5 start to this season.

The two programs in unique areas meet this weekend in Tempe, seemingly heading in different directions. The Sun Devils are a program trending up despite a 1-5-2 start, while the Chargers are trying to find the success they had over a decade ago.

The Sun Devils are returning home after playing six straight games on the road. They were unable to pick up an official win on the road trip, but did pick up a technical victory via the shootout against Nebraska Omaha on October 21.

ASU may be playing this weekend series with a load of frustration.

They are on a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2), and had many chances to pick up a couple of wins on the road swing. In their second game against Air Force on October 14, the Sun Devils had a goal waived off due to an early whistle, a score that would have given them a 3-2 lead. Instead Air Force grabbed a 3-2 lead as the second drew to a close, and that was all that was needed for a Falcons’ victory.

They ended up with two official ties, and they were two different stories.

Against Nebraska-Omaha on October 21, the Devils had to erase three separate deficits, and ended with a tie in the record despite the eventual shootout win. The final game of the long stretch away from home saw the Sun Devils score first, but sacrificed the lead in the third and settle for a draw, despite a 47-save performance out of Joey Daccord.

The Devils are coming back home at the right time.

Photo: Weston DeWitt / Blaze Sports

While they did not have a win to their record, they did get a shootout win and two ties, a better result that many outside the program expected. The team gained invaluable experience by playing established programs in tough environments.

ASU played well enough to win a couple of games, but did not have that extra push to pick up an official victory. They played a ranked Air Force tough, and snagged a shootout win at Nebraska Omaha, a place that head coach Greg Powers said would be a tough environment.

Alabama-Huntsville has one win on the season, and it came over the 15th-ranked Michigan Tech. Outside of the victory, it has not been a pretty start to the season for the Chargers. They have been outscored 22-8 in losses, and have been shutout twice. The Chargers have yet to play a home game, and could be weary of the road as this series is the final two games of their eight-game road swing.

The Sun Devils need to use this series and jump on a downed team to gather a couple victories, and feel the satisfaction of getting in the win column.

Seth Askelson is a beat writer for ASU NCAA Hockey. Reach out to him at seth.askelson7@gmail.com and be sure to follow Seth on Twitter @saskelson96 

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