|Who:||Arizona State Sun Devils|
|When:||Friday 7 p.m. and Saturday 3 p.m.|
|Where:||Pegula Ice Arena, University Park, Pa.|
No. 3 Penn State (9-1-1) looks to continue its hot streak at home when it hosts Arizona State (2-9-0) for a pair of games this weekend. The Lions will be favored to win each game, but as is the case in sports, there are no guarantees. Following the weekend series Penn State will have a week off prior to hosting Michigan in the first Big Ten games of the season in the first weekend of December.
When Arizona State joined the ranks of division one hockey last season it supplanted Penn State as the newest D1 hockey team. ASU has had a very solid team at a lower-level of competition for years, as was the case at PSU prior to moving to division one play five years ago.
There is likely no other program in the country that can relate to the struggles of making the jump to the highest level of college hockey more than Guy Gadowsky’s Penn State team. There are several players that remain on the team, mostly in the senior class, that can recall a time when the Lions were struggling to fill out a roster that can compete with established programs.
Scouting Arizona State
As is expected the Sun Devils are still facing an uphill battle when facing teams that have a roster full of division one caliber players. ASU is in transition, as Penn State was a few years ago, and has the bodies but not necessarily the talent to compete every night. As the Lions experienced in 2012 and 2013, the wins can be few and far between, but on any given night, the game could be competitive.
Arizona State beat a respectable Air Force team earlier in the year. Air Force is currently No. 20 in the PairWise rankings. This past weekend, it beat New Hampshire on Friday night and played very tight with No. 6 Boston College, ultimately losing 3-1. The Sun Devils may not be able to compete every night, but the team is getting to the point where every three or four games, when things click, it can take a win from a team that is expecting otherwise.
Senior Robbie Baillargeron, an Ottawa Senators draft pick, leads the team with 6 goals and 3 assists through nine games. There is a solid group of players behind Baillargeron that have contributed goals as well. ASU has scored over two goals per game. The bad news for the up-and-coming team is that it currently allows almost five goals per game. The team has had three goalies play in a platoon, similar to what Penn State had going on in 2014, but with results less impressive. All three ASU goalies have a goals against average between 4.70 and 4.92.
The high number of goals allowed should not be blamed on the goalies, or even the defensive players. As fans of Penn State hockey can remember, it is hard for a team to compete against a team that has a full compliment of division-one caliber players when your team only has a handful of top-tier talent. It’s not a knock on the hard-working players at Arizona State, more an acknowledgement, from a fan base that can relate, to the challenges a team faces when taking the jump to division one hockey.