ASU men's hockey set to take on Michigan in last series of the season

The Sun Devils look to disrupt Michigan's chances of going to the NCAA Tournament

ASU men’s hockey, now 8-19-5 on the season, is set to take on the Michigan Wolverines this weekend in its last series of the season. 

The No. 13 Wolverines have been playing excellent hockey and are in a position to make the NCAA tournament. From the outside, it would seem the Sun Devils will not have a successful weekend. 

However, this is not how ASU feels, and the Sun Devils are determined to end their season on a high note.  

“They’re a team that’s looking at the tournament, and they’re definitely counting us out just as everyone else is …” freshman right wing Johnny Walker said. “When you start overlooking teams, that’s when they get in a little bit of trouble, and I think that’s (what) happened a lot this year. We haven’t really capitalized on it like we could have, but this weekend, I think we can really break out of that and really take it to a top-end team.”

The last time the Sun Devils were counted out was at the Ice Vegas Invitational. ASU was not expected to even win one game, but instead, they won the organization’s first tournament. 

“Nobody expected us to win, and we just used that as motivation to fuel the fire, and we ended up winning it,” sophomore centerman Brett Gruber said. “Hopefully we can do the same this weekend.”

Michigan is 16-13-3 this season and currently boasts a three-game winning streak that started with Michigan State on Feb. 10. 

Michigan is riding a sweep over Notre Dame, which was ranked first by the NCAA before the series started. 

“They’re good. They’re playing their best hockey right now,” head coach Greg Powers said. “ … We’re going to have our work cut out for us. It’s going to be an unbelievable opportunity for us to go into, arguably, one of the best college hockey venues against a really, really talented team.”

The Sun Devils do not have as much momentum as Michigan, as last Saturday’s game against Michigan Tech ended in a 5-3 loss after the team broke its five-game losing streak with a 2-1 overtime win the night before.  

“I’ve never been a believer in momentum really carrying over from night to night,” Walker said. “I definitely don’t think it carries over throughout the full weekend, so I think it’s a brand new start, and just making sure that we’re ready to go when the puck is dropped on Friday is the most important thing right now.”

Nonetheless, the Sun Devils will have their weekly challenge of staying out of the penalty box, which has become even more of an issue as of late. 

ASU is third in Division I for overall penalty minutes with 513 this season. The Sun Devils took 25 penalties over the last three series for a total of 189 penalty minutes, which averages to 31.5 in the box per game. 

“Michigan is a really skilled team, and any time you’re facing a top-20 team like that, you want to stay out of the box,” Gruber said. “That’s going to be something we really need to focus on as far as our keys, and if we do that, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to win.”

Beyond this, the Sun Devils have a much larger issue at hand as sophomore centerman Tyler Busch will be out due to a minor lower body injury. 

“Buschy (Busch) is day-to-day. We’re hoping to get him back …” Powers said. “I’m not going to jeopardize his long-term success and his career and everything that goes along with it for just a couple of games at the end of the season.”

Junior centerman Anthony Croston will also be absent for the Michigan series after being suspended after what Powers said was an “overblown” altercation at the end of last Saturday’s game. 

“It wasn’t a big deal … It’s over and done with. We’re totally fine,” Powers said. “That’ll be a big hole for us. Obviously, he’s on both special teams, and he gets a ton of ice. He’s a go-to guy. We’re going to miss Anthony (Croston), but these guys are resilient …They’ll figure it out. Somebody will step up, and I don’t have a doubt about that.” 

The end of the season does not mean the Sun Devils will be slowing down as they try to end their second full year as a D-I team on a high note. 

“I like the way we were playing, and if we keep playing the same way and stay out of the box, we’ll be just fine.” Gruber said.  

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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