No. 20 ASU hockey ‘excited’ to host No. 4 Denver for first time in program history

The Sun Devils will host the high-powered Pioneers in this weekend's top 20 showdown

After a 1-0-1 weekend against the Vermont Catamounts, the Sun Devil hockey team is preparing for what will likely be one of its toughest opponents of the 2019-20 season, the No. 4 Denver Pioneers (9-3-2, 1-3-2 NCHC).

The Sun Devils are looking to refocus after they lost a top-six forward freshman Logan Jenuwine, who was dismissed from the program last week, along with freshman forward Carson Brière, following a violation of team rules.

Following Tuesday's practice, head coach Greg Powers briefly addressed the situation by simply saying, "We wish them both all the best moving forward."

At 7-4-1 this week, ASU resurfaced at No. 20 in USCHO’s Top 20 Poll for the first time since Sept. 30. The ranking comes after a tough weekend against a Vermont team that junior forward James Sanchez thinks is better than most people think.

“Vermont was a good team, their record doesn’t show it but they definitely played a lot better than their record,” Sanchez said. “I think we can definitely ramp it up."

The Illinois native currently leads the Sun Devils in points with 17 through 12 games. 

At this point in the season, Sanchez is confident about his and the team’s performance, especially heading into the weekend series against Denver.

“I don’t look at it too much,” he said. “I just take it day by day, game by game. Denver’s going to be a huge weekend so I definitely think it’s going to be a huge team effort.”

At No. 4, the Pioneers have outscored their opponents 47-29 through their first 14 games, a +18 goal differential. 

Senior forward Tyler Busch believes it will be a series that demands a lot from ASU, especially considering it's up against one of the nation’s top teams.

"I think at home we’ve proven ourselves this year and over the past couple years that we’re a good program, too, now,” he said. “So it’ll be a big test for us but we’re going to accept the challenge and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

DU’s offense has been led by Norwegian forward Emilio Pettersen and Canadian defenseman Ian Mitchell, both of whom have 12 points this season. Mitchell, Denver's captain, was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Denver’s transition game has been very successful this season, and ASU knows it’ll have to limit DU’s fast breaks and high-powered offense.

“They are really skilled and feed off turnovers, and they’re really good off the rush so we have to make sure we manage the puck well,” Busch said. “We have to take away their time and space and make it difficult for them.

Saturday’s game will take place at Gila River Arena, and the team is looking forward to the opportunity to play in an NHL venue.

“It’s always cool to play in those places,” Sanchez said. “(It’s a) little different than this rink, but it will be exciting.”

With two huge games upcoming, ASU knows the challenges Denver presents.

“They’re deep and balanced and we think we are too,” Powers said. “It’s going to be a great challenge, and we’re excited to take it on.”

ASU will kick off the series on Friday night at Oceanside Ice Arena at 7:05 p.m. MST. Saturday's game will begin at 4:30 p.m.


Reach the reporter at aklatsky@asu.edu and follow @averyklatsky on Twitter. 

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