Preview: ASU men's hockey prepares to take on UMass Amherst

Sun Devil hockey will begin the regular season with a two-game series against UMass Amherst

ASU men’s hockey found victory in its first and only exhibition game of the season against the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology this past weekend.

The Sun Devils' 4-1 win over NAIT came with a slew of penalties on both sides. 

“I think the PK (penalty kill) was really good,” freshman defenseman Gvido Jansons said. “We allowed one goal, but it was kind of an unlucky bounce and the power play – we got two goals. When you score two goals, it’s always good.”

The team’s two power play goals were both scored by the second power play unit, with the first being netted by freshman left wing Johnny Walker and the second by freshman centerman Filips Buncis

“There were stretches where we didn’t feel like we gave up very many chances for them,” redshirt junior left wing Dylan Hollman said. “Once we settled in and found our grove, I thought we really took it to them.”

The other two goals were scored by sophomore right wing Brett Gruber and sophomore defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk.

Now, the team is set to continue their success into the regular season with a two-game series against the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“They definitely have some talent, and they’re going to be hungry to try to knock us off right away,” Hollman said. “I expect they’re going to put up a good fight.”

The Sun Devils swept UMass Amherst in their two games against them last year, with both ending in a 4-1 win. This only added to the tally of losses UMass Amherst had in its 5-29-2 overall record. 

“I think they’re going to be a different team, and they’re definitely not going to be happy that we swept them last year at their rink,” sophomore goalie Joey Daccord said. “I think they’ll come in with upped intensity and get the revenge on us this year. I think for us, it being our first real weekend this season, we’ve just got to come in and match that intensity, if not beat it, and we’ll come out here with a good weekend.”

UMass Amherst finished its season on a 17-game losing streak, which ended last weekend with the team’s win (1-0) over Queens University in an exhibition game.

“They definitely have some more skilled guys this year,” junior centerman Anthony Croston said. “They have one of the top two or three picks in the NHL Draft on their team, so they’re going to be good. We’ll just have to shut those top guys down.”

ASU began full length practices, now that the regular season is in full swing, and has been using them to work on all facets of their game in preparation for UMass Amherst.

“I think we’re just working on speed. As a team, we’re just working on making quick plays — good, smart, hard plays,” Daccord said.

However, the Sun Devils' upcoming games will not be approached differently from any other game situation.

“We’ve got to forecheck them hard. We’ve got to really put pressure on them, and that’s how we play against everybody,” head coach Greg Powers said. “We play the same way. We’re focused on ourselves — we always want to come out hard and heavy, and that’s what we’re going to do on Friday.”

The Sun Devils do not just want to win – they will not be satisfied unless a win comes from a team effort.

“It’d be great to start the year with not only two wins, but two dominant wins,” Hollman said. 

“We’re kind of using these two games to slingshot into the season. If we win by one or two, but we put a poor effort in, we’re not going to be happy with that. At the end of the day, it’s about finding that consistency tour game, and we believe if we do that, we’ll get the results.”


Reach the reporter at pburnell@asu.edu or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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