No. 2 ASU will be playing in the national tournament.
It has already clinched a spot, taking some drama away from would have otherwise been a highly anticipated matchup against No. 3 Minot State on Friday and Saturday.
The road trip to North Dakota will also feature a game against non-ACHA Williston State. The focus of the trip remains on Minot State (22-4 ACHA).
Even with no seeding implications on the line, ASU coach Greg Powers refuses to let that take away from the importance of these games.
“We definitely expect to go up there and get three wins,” he said. “The games at Minot don’t mean anything toward the national ranking seedings, but we want to be feeling really good about ourselves going in.”
Minot State came to visit Tempe on Jan. 3, defeating ASU 3-2 in the two teams’ only meeting this season. It was the Sun Devils’ third loss in four games, a time when ASU (30-6 ACHA)was struggling.
The strength of Minot State comes from its goalies. The Beavers have two goalies with identical 11-2 records, junior Wyatt Waselenchuk and sophomore Riley Hengen. They both average less than 1.80 goals per game. Minot State as a team has allowed 43 goals, compared to ASU’s 87. Offensively, ASU holds the edge, outscoring Minot 181-141.
In order for the Sun Devils to be successful, they will need their skaters to beat Minot State’s goalies. The problem there is that ASU will be missing two of its best skaters.
This will be the first series without captain and junior forward Colin Hekle. He was removed from the game after he was checked into the boards on Feb. 1 against UA. He is not expected to play until the national tournament.
“Anytime you’re losing your captain and arguably the best player in the country, it’s noticeable,” Powers said.
“Noticeable” will be his absence on his line alongside sophomore Faiz Khan and senior Dan Styrna that has been dominant when healthy. The three of them together have not lost in ACHA play.
Freshman Stephen Collins played in Hekle’s place last weekend against UA, but Powers said he does not know who will play against on the line against Minot State. He said it may be junior Brian McGinty, but he did not confirm that.
Also injured is freshman defenseman Jordan Young, who has not played since January. Powers said that keeping Young out is precautionary, and that he should also return for nationals.
This weekend, Powers is optimistic for sophomore forward Liam Norris, who has only played 11 games this season. Norris, should he return, will join the line featuring forwards Kale Dolinski and Danny McAuliffe, both of whom are behind only Hekle in points scored.
Despite injuries, ASU still has to match up against the No. 3 team in the nation. The Sun Devils have competed with a banged-up roster all season.
“If we show up and play the way we can, like I said all year, there is nobody that can beat us,” Powers said.
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