No. 2 ASU hockey scheduled its first Division I game against the rival UA Wildcats on Oct. 4 in Tempe. But before the Sun Devils can get to UA, they have to face another Wildcats team: Weber State of Division II.
Weber State comes into Tempe with a 2-1 record, knocking off Utah State and BYU so far this season.
ASU coach Greg Powers called Weber State “one of the best Division II teams in the country” and said he is keeping his team focused heading into the matchup.
“They’re going to be a lot tougher than San Diego State,” Powers said. “We’re not going to take them lightly at all.”
While the talk around ASU (2-0) has been the freshman class, which includes 14 rookies on this year’s squad, Weber State is going through a similar youth movement. Eleven freshman play for the Wildcats, and so far for both teams, youth has been an advantage.
For the Sun Devils, freshmen round out four spots in the top five in points scored, and freshmen forwards Sean Murphy and Chris Burkemper are tied for the team lead in goals with three apiece.
Of the 27 players on the Weber State roster, 20 are either freshmen or sophomores, and the Wildcats’ overall points leader is a sophomore: forward Dax Hobbs.
Hobbs has gotten off to a tremendous start, scoring four goals and dishing out eight assists in three games, giving him a whopping 12 points, which tops in ACHA Division II by a player with that many games.
Weber State coach Joe Pfleegor, who speaks highly of Hobbs, also coached Hobbs in junior hockey before convincing him to join Weber State last season.
“He can bury puck. He can play-make. He’s pretty much what you call the package,” Pfleegor said. “He’s a game changer.”
Behind Hobbs is freshman forward Alex Pizarro, who netted three goals in the Wildcats’ first four games. Expected to start in net for Weber State is freshman Ian Frank, who has played every minute of the Wildcats’ season so far and amassed a a save percentage of .920 and 2.51 goals allowed average.
Pfleegor said his goal is to elevate Weber State to a Division I team within the next two or three years and that he wants to give his players a chance to compete at that level.
“I think this will be a really good test for the boys, to get kind of a taste what it’s like to play at that (Division I) level,” he said. “The (Division I) hockey is phenomenal. For them to actually play a game like that will be great.”
ASU knows that Weber State will be hungry, and Powers said he will make sure the Sun Devils are ready.
“I know for a fact that they’re coming down here to compete and win that game, and we’re going to do the same,” Powers said.
The puck drops Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
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