SEASON PREVIEW: Sun Devils set to carve fresh ice
By Seth Askelson & Will Everett // Hockey Beat Reporters for Blaze Sports
The Arizona State University Men’s NCAA Ice hockey team will play their only exhibition game on home ice against the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) on Saturday night.
ASU will start the regular season with a home series against UMASS-Amherst after the exhibition game against NAIT. This will be the start of its first full year playing an NCAA schedule. Most teams take several years, strictly practicing for a year or two and then participating in several shortened seasons before being introduced to the full rigor of an NCAA schedule.
A monumental feat as this is only ASU’s second year recognized as an NCAA Division I program.
The 2016-2017 was ASU’s transition season. The team posted a 10-19-3 record, and a few of those wins against notable ranked teams such as No. 18 Air Force and No. 17 Quinnipiac. This year, with the exception of No. 17 Air Force, the Sun Devils do not play a top-25 team until after Christmas.
However with the dawn of the New Year comes what will prove to be a difficult month of January. Four of the five teams the Sun Devils will face-off against are currently ranked. Every series will be played on home ice, but against (in order) No. 5 Umass-Lowell, No. 14 Quinnipiac and No. 2 Boston University.
The schedule is not the only uphill battle the Sun Devils will face. ASU’s roster will feature eight talented true-freshmen and fourteen underclassmen. While the roster is young, there is a lot of experience with the second-year players.
There is 145 games of experience between the sophomores, and Tyler Busch is expected to be one of the sophomores to contribute heavily. Busch tied for second on the team in goals (9) and points (20) as a freshman last season.
Sophomores tend to be stats monsters in this program of late. Anthony Croston finished atop the points category for the team in his second year as a Sun Devil with 21 points, and Dylan Hollman added 17 points as a redshirt sophomore last season.
The Sun Devils were ranked ninth in recruiting by neutralzone.net, and brought a little bit of national attention by signing on Austin Lemieux.
Lemieux is the son of two-time Stanley Cup Champion, Pittsburg Penguin great and 1997 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Mario Lemieux.
ASU also added two Latvian players; defenseman Gvido Jansons and center Filips Buncis. Both of which played for their country in the 2016 IIHF U20 World Junior Championships.
And if the Devils are going to have sustained success, it could rest on the sticks of the Latvians and their freshman brethren.
Seth Askelson and Will Everett are the beat reporters for Arizona State NCAA Hockey. You can reach out to them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow them on Twitter @SAskelson96 and @TheRealWillYevs