In its final weekend of nonconference play, the Yale men’s hockey team will host Arizona State in back-to-back games at Ingalls Rink while seeking to regain the momentum that carried it through its best stretch of the season, a 6–2–1 run in December and January.
The last time these two teams faced off, the Bulldogs (9–11–1, 6–9–1 ECAC) traveled west to compete in the Desert Hockey Classic in Arizona during the 2015–16 season. At the time, Arizona State (7–16–5) was still transitioning into a full NCAA Division I program and the Elis handed them a substantial 4–0 defeat in the opening round of the tournament.
“We’ve been developing some good habits over the last month, so now it’s time to execute and find a way to win two games at home,” forward Robbie DeMontis ’20 said. “That’s what our focus is this weekend.”
Arizona State, the only independent program in Division I men’s ice hockey, will enter Ingalls Rink with six games of experience this season against ECAC opponents. After taking on Colgate, Princeton and Quinnipiac in a trio of respective weekend series, the Sun Devils own a 1–3–2 record versus ECAC schools this season and will look to improve on that mark when they take on the Bulldogs.
Despite sitting at 54th out of 60 teams in the national rankings, ASU boasts some impressive performances on its 2017–18 resume. Back in October, the Sun Devils tied No. 8 Omaha on the road and then followed up with a tie against Colgate, a team ranking as high as No. 19 nationally. Other strong showings include a win over Princeton and another draw against Quinnipiac, both teams that have defeated Yale this season. Still, Yale has its sights set on its first four-point weekend against a team that has won just 25 percent of its games.
Yale’s defense will need to keep a sharp watch on Sun Devil forwards Johnny Walker, Tyler Busch and Brinson Pasichnuk. The trio of underclassmen has combined for 23 out of the team’s 61 total goals on the season. However, ASU averages just 2.18 goals per game in comparison to Yale’s 2.67.
Friday’s dual will mark the Sun Devils’ first game outside the state of Arizona since they traveled to the Ice Vegas Invitational on Jan. 5 and 6. ASU has notched just a single win in its 10 road games this season, but has tallied 22 goals in its last eight games.
“[Arizona State] has some really good offensive players,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “They got some guys who can get after it. It looks like they’re still struggling from not having a [conference] and a lack of identity from not having a league, but I think they’ll be a formidable opponent and fun to play against.”
Despite a 0.250 overall winning percentage, Arizona State seems primed for a victory coming off a one-goal defeat to Boston University. That pair of close defeats to the Terriers could spell trouble for Yale, whose most recent loss came in a 1–0 setback to last-place St. Lawrence, a team that entered the weekend on the heels of four consecutive one-goal defeats.
But Allain’s outlook remains optimistic following losses on the road to No. 4 Clarkson and the Saints, both games in which he believed Yale was the better team despite the final scores from upstate New York. In order to secure a pair of victories at home this weekend, the Elis will need to find an offensive spark after being limited to just one goal on 81 shots in their most recent losses. The Bulldog offense will need to capitalize on its depth to get shots past Sun Devil goaltender Joey Daccord, who owns a mediocre 0.906 save percentage.
“We generated a lot of shots this [past] weekend but most of them weren’t in prime scoring areas, or we didn’t have our guys driving the net looking for the rebound,” goaltender Corbin Kaczperski ’20 said. “We have to be hungrier to score.”
Yale’s quest for a two-win weekend begins on Friday at 7 p.m.
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