For ASU hockey, limiting penalties is key for continued success

The Sun Devils rank third nationally with 44 penalty kill attempts this season

This week, ASU hockey freshman forward Logan Jenuwine was asked if the team's recent penalty issues were because of overaggressiveness or officiating. 

Jenuwine paused while the small group of reporters smiled at his curious facial expressions.

After he pondered the question for a moment, Jenuwine began to answer with a deeply sarcastic and hesitant tone.

“No, the refereeing has been great,” he said.

A chorus of chuckles followed before the freshman continued.

“There’s smart penalties, and there’s not smart penalties,” Jenuwine said. “In the game of hockey, you get frustrated and people are going to take a couple dumb penalties. Last weekend with (sophomore forward Demetrios Koumontzis’s) five-minute penalty ... that doesn’t help us.”

Jenuwine’s head coach agreed.

“We’ve taken two five and ten-minute penalties in our first eight games. Without those it’s not as bad,” Greg Powers said. “I don’t agree with those calls. We’ve got to play a certain way, and we’re going to play the way we need to win games.”

But the ugly truth is that the Sun Devils are third in the nation in penalty kill attempts with 44. The two teams ahead of ASU in that category, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Union College, have played two more games this season.

The 10 goals ASU has allowed via the power play is also tied for third in the nation with Michigan State.

“Early on, we definitely needed to be more disciplined,” ASU co-captain and senior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk said. “I think we do have too many penalty minutes as a team. We’re working on that for sure.”

Jenuwine and Powers have pointed out that a fair amount of bad luck has contributed to the Sun Devils' penalty woes. Although fortune is definitely a factor, Pasichnuk explained that not every penalty is committed the same.

“A regular penalty is kind of lazy. Either your feet aren’t moving, you’re not in the right position, or you just don’t want to work hard,” he said. “I think an effort penalty is just when you’re working so hard and maybe your stick, for a second, gets caught in the wrong area because you’re working so hard.”

Given its style of play, ASU’s infractions mostly line up with the latter.

The Sun Devils are a big, physical and nasty team. The benefits of that style of play have been lots of wins; like last season’s 21, which led to an NCAA tournament appearance.

But with greater physicality comes a greater risk of penalties. Balancing its physical style of play with the letter of the law has been ASU’s ultimate challenge this season.

“We have a big team,” Pasichnuk said. “It definitely can be tricky since some of our guys’ game is being physical. I think it’s just about being smart.”

Besides the penalties, ASU has proven to be a tough matchup for any team.

A 1-3 start may not have been ideal for the Sun Devils, but a pair of two-game sweeps over Air Force and No. 9 Quinnipiac has further cemented their legitimacy as a contender for an NCAA tournament spot in 2019-20. 

During the four-game win streak, ASU outscored the Falcons and Bobcats 17-6.

“Saturday (against Quinnipiac) was the model of what we want to do and how we want to play,” Powers said. “There’s not much we can do better, to be honest.”

“We just upset the No. 9 team in the country,” Pasichnuk said. “I think we’re just going to show the college hockey world that Sun Devil hockey is legit. It wasn’t a fluke that we made the tournament last year.

“It hit us like, ‘Hey, look how good we are. We are actually a very good team when all play and work hard and come together.’”


Reach the reporter at kbriley@asu.edu and on Twitter @KokiRiley.

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