ASU men's hockey set to face Penn State at Gila River Arena

The Sun Devils are looking for a season restart with wins over a ranked opponent

After its bye week, ASU men’s hockey (2-6-2) is set to take on Pennsylvania State (5-7-0) this weekend at Gila River Arena.

“They play a really run-and-gun (game), (a) completely offensive style of hockey where they throw everything at the net,” head coach Greg Powers said. “They average the most shots per game in the country, so Joey (Daccord) is going to have to be on his toes and suck up rebounds.”

Penn State currently leads the league with an average of 40.8 shots per game, but the 2017 Big Ten League Champions are also on a two-game losing streak after getting swept by Notre Dame. 

ASU also left on a loss after falling 3-1 against Alabama-Huntsville, splitting the series, just as they have done with all of their home series at Oceanside.

“Our compete level, we have really struggled to consistently find that this year, so I think we just need to focus one period at a time and get back to that style of play where we have to work the team,” redshirt junior left wing Dylan Hollman said. “Penn State is a good team, and to give ourselves a chance, we have to be that team.”

The Sun Devils' week off from competition came at the right time. The team was able to focus on details and attend to other aspects of their game that do not always get as much attention.

“Right now, we’re focusing on some forecheck stuff. I think we’re still trying to figure out the best chemistry between lineups – we’re trying out new guys and everything, but I think we’re moving the puck better,” freshman centerman Filips Buncis said. “We’re sticking more to our identity – we’re getting pucks deeper and keeping it simple, but at the same time, it’s really hard-fought. That’s our best game, and those other teams can’t really compete against us if we’re outworking them.”

A huge component of outworking Penn State for the Sun Devils will be getting shots on net just as Penn State can do. ASU currently averages 26.1 shots per game, while its opponents average 34.2 shots.

“We focused on just that: pucks and bodies at the net," Powers said. "We have to find them both to the net nonstop to have some success and to find a way on to the scoreboard.” 

A multitude of shots is key as Penn State’s starting goalie, sophomore Peyton Jones, had 23 wins last season and 884 saves – both records for Penn.

“You never know. It’s a good goalie, but every shot might go in,” Buncis said. “It just takes one shot and we just need to put a lot of pucks on him and … we should give him a hard time, get him frustrated and I’m sure we’ll score a couple goals.”

Additionally, the team has to keep true with the identity it has shown in phases throughout the season, an identity characterized by the team’s ability to get gritty goals past any team.

“There’s been times this year where we said maybe the puck luck hasn’t been going our way, but to get that puck luck, you’ve got to get into those greasy areas and get some of those hard-nosed goals,” Hollman said.

Penn State is ranked, and like every game for the Sun Devils, there are going to be new challenges with high-caliber opponents. However, the Sun Devils know their style of play is capable of combating anything other teams may throw at them and are prepared for this with a potential season restart. 

“I just really want to upset them. We have a lot to prove. We haven’t played badly this year; we haven’t played our best, obviously,” Buncis said. “I think we’re okay, but our record doesn’t really show that – it’s a little worse than our game is. It’s much needed to get that win against a bigger team to get that confidence up, to get that swagger and just feel better about ourselves.” 

The Sun Devils will face Penn State Friday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. and on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7:05 p.m. both at Gila River Arena.


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

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