No. 1 ASU hockey hosts another top team when No. 4 Liberty comes to town

No. 1 ASU hockey’s last three games have been against the No. 11 team in the nation, then two against the No. 5 team.

The road doesn’t get any easier when No. 4 Liberty University (21-4-0) visits Tempe on Thursday.

ASU coach Greg Powers complimented Liberty’s consistency.

“They’re obviously a very good hockey team. They’re a legit top-five team,” Powers said. “Year-in and year-out, Liberty has a very good program.”

ASU senior forward Kale Dolinski is having an other-worldly season: 16 goals and 38 assists in 25 games for an ACHA-leading 54 points. Aside from him, senior forward Brian McGinty and junior forward Liam Norris lead the way with 32 points each.

So if Liberty junior forward Lindsay LeBlanc was a Sun Devil, his 34 points would be the second-best on the team. LeBlanc has hit his stride recently, scoring nine points (two goals and seven assists) in his last four games. His 12 goals are tied for second on the team to senior forward Andrew McCombe’s 13.

LeBlanc and McCombe, along with freshman forward Robert Ward, form a trio that has scored 95 points in a combined 71 games.

Defensively, the Eagles’ net is minded by a duo of goalies: senior Blair Bennett and freshman Matt Pinel.

Bennett boasts a 2.39 goals against average, despite allowing seven on Jan. 11 to Stony Brook. Other than that game, he has allowed more than three goals only once.

Pinel doesn’t have the numbers that Bennett does, but his 10-2 record says he has been doing enough to give Liberty the win.

It is ASU’s only game of the weekend, atypical from the usual three. Powers said he looks forward to having the weekend off.

“It gives us the opportunity to just focus on one game,” Powers said. “Nothing to save ourselves for, because they got some good rest leading into the roadtrip.”

ASU travels to play Liberty on the road Jan. 24 and 25.

Additional notes:

– Sophomore defenseman Brett Blomgren sat out Friday’s and Saturday’s games because of an upper-body injury. Powers said he should be available to play Thursday, but if he does not, it would be for precautionary reasons. Powers said it is important to have him fully healthy for next weekend’s road trip.

– Freshman forward Eric Rivard did not play last weekend, because he was unable to get back to Tempe after winter break in time for practice. He was snowed in where he was, and did not arrive until just before the start of the game against the University of Central Oklahoma on Thursday. He is expected to play Thursday.

– Freshman goalie Lucas Felbel has impressed in practice, but Powers said it is hard to get him in the lineup because of how well fellow goalies freshman Robert Levin and senior Joe D’Elia have been playing.

– ASU won its last meeting against Liberty 4-3 in a shootout on Jan. 10, 2013.

Puck drops at 8 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.

 

Reach the reporter at justin.emerson@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @J15Emerson