Hockey Preview: Arizona State
George Stockburger, Joe Murphy and Travis Sutton break down this weekend's series between Penn State and Arizona State.
After sweeping Alaska on Nov. 11 and 12, Penn State’s men’s hockey team is now the 10th ranked team in the NCAA, and looking forward to this weekend’s series against unranked Arizona State before conference play gets underway.
The Sun Devils will travel to University Park to play this Friday and Saturday, another tough matchup for the newly anointed Division I hockey program.
Penn State, at 9-1-1 on the year, has been playing phenomenally as a team, their only loss coming from a then-ranked No. 16 St. Lawrence back on Oct. 7. Arizona State, on the other hand, is 2-0-9 on the year, though their first win of the season came against then-ranked No. 18 Air Force.
Arizona State has played almost exclusively strong teams so far this year, including Michigan, Harvard, Boston College, Notre Dame, and of course Air Force.
With yet another ranked opponent breathing down their necks, the Sun Devils’ record is not surprising. For a team in their first year in Division I hockey, and playing against such strong opponents, they are certainly going to have a hard time adding to their win column.
Even with an easier schedule, Arizona State wouldn’t be guaranteed a good record. All new programs are going to have some trouble from the get-go. Arizona State should pick up its performance as the season and Division I experiences continue.
Penn State’s impeccable defense and highly-talented overall roster has all but blown every opposing team out of the water, outscoring them 19-6 in their last four games and outshooting their challengers 513-266 on the year.
Arizona State has been outscored 17-9 in their last four games and 24-9 in their last five after a 7-0 beating from Harvard on Oct. 28.
Penn State’s goalie, Peyton Jones, has excelled in net so far this year. Jones has a save percentage of .919 with 205 saves.
In goal for Arizona State will be a platoon of Joey Daccord and Robert Levin, who, along with Ryland Pashovitz, have split games this season. Daccord has a .870 save percentage with 181 saves while Levin has a percentage of .883 on 121 saves.
On the attacking side of the ice for the Nittany Lions is the freshman phenom Denis Smirnov, with five goals and 12 assists in the 11 games played this season. He has been nearly unstoppable, making him a huge worry for the Sun Devils’ defense.
Arizona State’s big offensive weapon is their center, Robbie Baillargeon, a graduate student transfer from Boston University after playing with the Terriers for three years. Baillargeon leads the Sun Devils in scoring with six goals, and is tied for third on the team with three assists.
Penn State will expect to win the series and add to their growing confidence, and win column, as conference play begins against currently-ranked No. 16 Michigan to start the month of December.
Tommy Butler is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.