The Wildcats are coming to Tempe, and with a new season, hope to break a four-year trend.
No. 20 UA hockey has had a 32-game skid as it has not beaten No. 2 ASU in four years. The Wildcats came close multiple times last year, scoring first in the final four meetings, and even held a third period lead on Feb. 23 in Tucson.
Both ASU coach Greg Powers and UA coach Sean Hogan used the same word to describe how they feel about the weekend: excited. Both coaches are coming off wins against Division II teams, and Friday will be the first Division I game of the season for both schools.
Considering the first real game of the season for both programs will be a big rivalry game, as well as ASU’s 32-game win streak in the balance, the buzz surrounding the game is palpable.
“Every game means everything,” Powers said. “It’s elevated right now because there’s a streak. … Regardless of the streak, we’re going to give it everything we have to win every chance we can against our arch-rival.”
Hogan agreed, and said he is looking forward to UA’s visit to Tempe, but downplayed the significance of the streak
“We’re always excited to play ASU, home or away,” Hogan said. “Honestly, we don’t talk a lot about (the streak). … There’s ups and downs for sure, and we’re hoping to close that gap this year, and we feel pretty good about it.”
UA (2-0) began its season the same way ASU did, with victories against Division II teams. UA beat NAU by scores of 5-1 and 5-3 last weekend in Flagstaff. The Wildcats do not play a home game until Oct. 25.
ASU’s year started off about as well as it could have. The Sun Devils (3-0) manhandled San Diego State and Weber State in their first three games, outscoring them 33-2 in the three games in Tempe.
Through those three games, senior forward Brian McGinty has led the scoring so far, with eight points. Freshman forward Sean Murphy leads ASU in goals scored with four, and freshman forward Zach Holstrom’s six assists leads the team.
For the Wildcats, senior forward Ansel Ivens-Anderson and junior defenseman Shane Gleason lead the team in scoring, with four points each in their two games.
Like ASU, UA’s goaltender situation is still unclear. Senior Steven Sisler led the Wildcats in playing time last year, but it was the since-graduated Robert Schultz who was in net the last time ASU saw UA. Sophomore Dylan Hojnacki got the nod in the season opener last Friday and Sisler was back in net on Saturday.
Hogan said he is unsure who who will be the starting for UA at goalie Friday and that he is the same situation as Powers in that he has many goalies he can play.
“No clear cut favorite, so we’ll go with who we think is hot throughout the week,” Hogan said.
Meanwhile Powers announced after the game last week (freshman Robert Levin’s first shutout) that senior Joe D’Elia will start in net on Friday for the Sun Devils. D’Elia is 9-0 in his career against the Wildcats.
“He’ll be ready to go, and we know we can beat these guys with him in net,” Powers said.
Although it is an ASU-UA game, it will not count toward Territorial Cup Series points, as hockey was not included when the Series began.
Faceoff is Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
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