ASU men's hockey will take on Boston University in its final home series

The Sun Devils' success will be determined by the special teams battle against Boston University

ASU men’s hockey (7-14-5) is set to take on Boston University (11-11-2) after an unofficial 3-2 overtime win and a 5-3 loss to Quinnipiac last weekend. 

The upcoming games against Boston University will likely be determined by which team wins the special teams battle, so beyond anything else, the focus will be the penalty kill and the power play. 

In Saturday’s game against Quinnipiac, the Sun Devils allowed their opponents to score on three of four power plays

“The main thing we struggled with was clearing the zone when we got the puck on our stick in the d-zone, we just couldn’t get it out,” freshman defenseman Max Balinson said. “One opportunity they had to score, we could have got the puck out seven times and we didn’t clear it. I think it’s just executing and focusing on the details.”

ASU is still ranked 22nd overall in the penalty kill in Division 1 with an 82.14 percent success rate, but failing on 75 percent of penalty kills in a game is very uncharacteristic of the team. 

The only other time ASU failed on the penalty kill to this degree was when the Sun Devils allowed Nebraska Omaha to score on three of three power plays on Oct. 21.

“We want to try to get a 105 percent combined with our power play and penalty kill, so whether that’s 85 percent on the penalty kill and 20 percent on the power play, whatever that may be,” sophomore forward Steenn Pasichnuk said. “So if the penalty kill is struggling, I think that might take some momentum away from us.”

Coming into the weekend, Quinnipiac was not a very strong power play team and still only has a 15.96 percent scoring rate on the power play compared to ASU’s 12 percent. 

Boston University, on the other hand, is ranked 14th overall on the power play with a 21.57 percent success rate

“We’ve faced really good power plays, and Quinnipiac, statistically, didn’t have much of a better power play than us coming into the weekend, but we certainly helped that percentage,” Powers said. “BU is just really talented. They’re skilled, they’re talented and we’re going to have to be dialed in. Most importantly, we’re just going to have to stay out of the box.”

ASU also needs to keep its consistency and keep improving on the power play to be successful against such a team.

The Sun Devils have managed three power play goals in the last three games; the only other time they have scored power play goals in consecutive games was against Alabama-Hunstville in November.

“We’re going to have to be ready for BU’s power play," Pasichnuk said. "They’ve got a strong power play, so the penalty kill is going to have to be going, likewise for our power play. We’re going to have to work hard at practice all week and come ready for it.”

As far as scoring streaks go on an individual level, freshman forward Johnny Walker has produced four goals and five points in the last five games. 

“I think a lot of it just has to do with simplifying,” Walker said. “Sometimes, when I try to do too much, (things) tend to snowball and it goes the wrong direction. I know (when) I’m just playing the game the right way and getting in on pucks and playing hard ... good things seem to happen.”

Walker is now third in scoring on the team with 14 points, only behind sophomore forward Brett Gruber who has 15, and sophomore defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk who has 19. 

ASU is ready for its games against another historic program, and plans to have its last series not only fall in line with, but build upon how well it has played since the Ice Vegas Invitational at the beginning of the year. 

“In general, we’re getting more chances now too, and it's more consistent pressure in the offensive zone and the power play, and a couple (goals) are actually going in now too,” Walker said. “I don’t think we need to change anything on our special teams ... I thought we had a good weekend, and we just have to keep building off of what we’ve been doing in 2018.”

The Sun Devils will face Boston University on Friday, Jan. 26 at Gila River Arena and Saturday, Jan. 27 at Oceanside Arena, with both games starting at 7:05 p.m. MST. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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