Friday night in Tempe, the puck will drop to open ASU hockey’s season, a campaign in which the Sun Devils hope to improve upon last year’s Final Four appearance, and head to the national championship.
That march starts with a two-game set against the San Diego State Aztecs.
What the game will not be is a measuring stick for the level of competition ASU will face all season. San Diego State is a Division II team, a step below ASU, which plays in Division I.
Despite that, coach Greg Powers said he sees the game as an opportunity to continue working before conference play begins.
“This team is literally going to take it one game at a time,” Powers said. “There are a lot of new kids that are learning our system and learning how we want them to play, and there’s no better time than these two games to kind of use it as a trial by fire.”
The “new kids” that Powers refers to are the 14 freshmen who made ASU’s final roster. They will be suiting up for their first game together on Friday, after making the team following final cuts on Sept. 5. Powers said he would love to see everyone play and see what they can do.
“I don’t think (the lines) are set yet, and I think these games are going to help me determine that,” Powers said.
The 14 freshmen and 16 other players will be getting onto the ice against a San Diego State team that finished 14-16-1 last year.
First-year San Diego State coach Chris Migliore said he understands how favored ASU will be, and that he is tempering expectations for his team while focusing on team development.
“I’m pretty honest with the kids,” Migliore said. “We’re not so concerned with the outcome, (and) we understand it’s an uphill battle.”
Without going into specifics, Migliore said that there are a few younger players that he hopes can keep up with ASU. He may have been referencing sophomore Travis Sevilla, who ranked third on the team last season in goals while playing in every game.
For ASU, the attention of the preseason has centered around the starting goalie position and the battle between returning senior Joe D’Elia and incoming freshmen Robert Levin and Lucas Felbel.
As far as Friday goes, Powers has hinted that D’Elia will start but said he remains unsure about that, as well as who will be the starter moving forward.
“They’re all three looking very good every day,” Powers said. “That’s going to be a developing situation, and I don’t think it will come to a head until we’re a little bit into the season.”
No matter who starts in net on Friday, it marks the beginning of games that matter for ASU, and it all kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena.
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