ASU men's hockey welcomes No. 1 Ohio State to Tempe this weekend

The ASU men's hockey team is getting set for a big showdown with the Buckeyes

"Great moments are born from great opportunity."

The quote comes from a scene in the movie "Miracle," in which the 1980 U.S. men's Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) enters his team's locker room and delivers a speech to his players just before they go out and defeat the elite Soviet Union team 4-3 in a mammoth upset that goes down in U.S. Olympics history.

Tone down the Hollywood theatrics and references to the Cold War and the ASU men's hockey team has the same opportunity to achieve greatness when they step on the ice this weekend.

The ASU Sun Devils will take on the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes this Friday and Saturday in Tempe. The Buckeyes are coming off a Frozen Four run last season, and they have 21 players returning from last year's squad, including eight of their top-10 scorers.

"(It is a) very elite program. We play some really good teams this year, but they very well could be the best team that we play," ASU head coach Greg Powers said. "We know they are going to be incredibly talented."

The numbers speak for themselves when looking at this weekend's match up. Ohio State is coming off back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. 

They also have two All-Americans returning with senior forward Mason Jobst and junior forward Tanner Laczynski, along with the return of Buckeyes head coach Steve Rohlik who was last year's Big Ten Coach of the Year with a 26-10-5 overall record.

On the other hand, ASU is in its fourth season as an NCAA Division I program. The team is off to its first 2-0 start in its history after sweeping the Alaska Fairbanks last weekend.

Read More: ASU men's hockey completes home sweep of Alaska Fairbanks

The Sun Devils have an 18-40-8 combined record in the last two seasons, but this year they have one of the most talented recruiting classes in the program's young existence with young talent off to a great start with 12 different players registering points last weekend.

The future of ASU hockey is bright, but looking at the numbers and where the two schools are at in the college hockey spectrum, to compare this weekends match-up to David and Goliath would be an understatement.

However the opportunity for the team to challenge themselves by playing such a high-caliber opponent at home and the chance to use a measuring stick against one of college hockey's elite teams can only pay dividends for a growing regime in Tempe.

"There's no room for error, that's the biggest thing," ASU freshman forward Demetrios Koumontzis said. "We are the new team. They probably have more skill than us, but I don't think that's always what wins hockey games. If we come in with more grit and more of a will to win, I think that's the team that is going to come out on top."

As Koumontzis said, skill doesn't always win hockey games. That was the case two years ago when ASU went into Columbus to stun a then No. 10 Ohio State team on the second day of back-to-back games. The Sun Devils defeated the Buckeyes in a shootout, although the game went down as a 2-2 tie due to NCAA rules. 

Nevertheless, for a team in its second year, the game was a huge stepping stone. Although the roster has varied substantially since that time, that game is still a reminder of what can happen when going up against an opponent who has more speed and skill.

Although he wasn't on the team at the time, ASU sophomore forward Johnny Walker remembers watching his future team play OSU.

"I am sure Ohio State is still thinking about that game a little bit," Walker said. "It just shows that this team has progressed a lot since two years ago so if they could do it, I feel like we are capable of doing it this year."

After ASU's win last Sunday, Powers said that his team has "no pressure" and all the pressure this weekend will be on the Buckeyes as they enter Oceanside Ice Arena.

"At the end of the day, it's still a hockey game," Walker said. "There has been a lot crazier wins in hockey than ASU beating Ohio State. We are confident."

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