ASU hockey aiming for bounce-back series against Michigan State

The Sun Devils look to rebound in East Lansing after being swept on opening weekend

After posting a 22-win campaign in 2019-20, ASU hockey had high hopes coming into this season with a Big Ten schedule.

Its performance opening weekend against Michigan, which included being stifled in a shocking 8-1 loss in the first game and followed by a 3-0 shutout the next day, was not the ideal start they wanted.

Despite the two losses, ASU is not hitting the panic button just yet.

"There's zero panic within our group right now," head coach Greg Powers said. "We started 1-3 last year and this, of all seasons, is literally a marathon with the way that it's structured. It's just staying positive and trying to get better day-to-day."

Powers said that despite the Wolverines' youth, the group was the "the best team we've seen since we've been Division I." 

"It's unheard of, the talent that they have. The speed, and they come at you in waves and there's no holes," Powers said.

The Sun Devils' only goal of the weekend came at the hands of freshman forward Ryan O'Reilly. O'Reilly and the rest of the freshman class showed the potential to contribute to the team despite the losses.

"I thought the freshmen were the only somewhat bright spot on Saturday," Powers said. "They were our best line, they did a good job in the time that they got. It was indoctrination like no other freshman group is going to get. I think they handled themselves pretty well."

However, perhaps no performance was as important in the series to the Sun Devils as that of freshman goaltender Cole Brady

Brady, a New Jersey Devils draft pick, came into the first game in relief of junior Evan DeBrouwer, saving 10 shots. He also played all of the second game, stopping 44 of 47 shots faced to end with a .939 save percentage.

"I thought he played really well," sophomore defenseman Jack Judson said of Brady. "For a freshman to come in like that in his first game, pretty tough circumstances, so we are all really impressed with how he played, and it's a good sign moving forward."

With 26 games left to play in the 2020-21 season, the team turns its attention to its upcoming series against Michigan State.

"I've been itching to get back on the ice and throw on an ASU jersey for the first time," senior forward Sean Dhooghe said. "It felt good to play games again, and we are looking forward to the next two."

According to Powers, ASU expects to be without senior captain Johnny Walker because of an injury. Walker completed his second consecutive 20-plus goal season in 2019-20 and recorded a career-high 18 assists. 

The Spartans, who went 15-19-2 last season, lost 43% of their scoring from 2019-20 but are returning two of their top three point scorers.

"They're certainly a better matchup for us," Powers said. "They play a much different game than Michigan, they're very well-structured, they're always above the puck. They're not easy to generate transition on but we seem to match up with how they play pretty well."

Judson has his eyes set on the next series against the Spartans, a team they split two games with during the 2019-20 season.

"I think we can improve in all areas," Judson said. "Basically, sticking to our identity and knowing how we play. We're just excited for an opportunity to get back on track and be the team we know we can."

ASU (0-2) will look to get into the win column in what will be Michigan State's first series of its season at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, Michigan on Thursday and Friday.


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

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