Penn State (5-0-0) will try to keep its record unblemished at home versus the Sun Devils of Arizona State. The team is ranked sixth in the USCHO.com poll and is atop the early-season PairWise standings. There is a lot of hockey to be played but through five games, there is little that has gone wrong.
ASU (6-2-0) has lost two games at home versus Ohio State, both competitive contests, and otherwise has had a surprising start to the season. With a pair of wins against Omaha, Alaska, and Alabama-Huntsville, the Sun Devils have moved to the top of the standings in all of collegiate hockey among independent schools. Of course, they are the only team in college hockey without a league affiliation.
The trip to State College will be the first true road test for Arizona State. It has only played away from home for one series, at Alabama-Huntsville, so this will be the team’s first journey north of Alabama. Forward Johnny Walker leads the team with 8 goals, 5 of which came on the power-play. The team returns nine of its top ten scorers from a season ago.
Much like the Lions were early in their introduction to Division 1 hockey, the Sun Devils are capable of taking a game or two on the road in any environment. While the team lacks overall depth in its fourth season of D1 play, if the score remains close there are enough players that could hurt you. Similar to Casey Bailey, Walker has become a sniper that will need to be accounted for, especially when Guy Gadowsky’s team finds itself short-handed.
Ludvig and the Grad Transfer
Four seasons ago, Ludvig Larsson caught Keith Fisher’s eye.
Penn State’s associate head coach — an assistant coach at the time — saw Larsson play for the Lone Star Brahmas and knew he could be an impact player in college hockey.
Larsson ultimately chose Merrimack to begin his collegiate career, but when he made his graduate transfer intentions known after last season, Fisher knew Penn State should take another shot at Larsson.
“We were looking for a forward at the time and he just fit the mold of what we were looking for,” the associate head coach said Monday.
Fisher and the rest of the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff didn’t have much time to convince Larsson to choose Penn State. While the decision wasn’t easy for Larsson, it was a no-brainer for Fisher.
“It was a short process. That’s what happens with grad transfers,” Fisher said. “I remember sitting down with him in the conference room, just getting to know him over the past three weeks, I was like, ‘You’d fit in perfect here. I want you on our team because you’re such a great kid. You fit in perfect at Penn State.’”
The coaching staff did their best to make the decision as easy as possible for Larsson.
“They had everything ready for me, exactly what I needed to do, exactly what they wanted me to know,” Larsson said of the recruitment process. “What they knew was important for me, too, was the academic part.”
The team arranged meetings with advisers and professors to ensure Larsson would be acclimated and comfortable with his new home. That was aided quickly when Larsson met a couple of his new teammates — Nate Sucese and Chris Funkey.
“Everything just felt right when I came here,” Larsson said. “After my visit here, I knew I wanted to go here.”
Larsson knew he’d have no trouble fitting in with the team. Adjusting from Merrimack’s 3,515 student population to University Park’s 46,000 is a bit of a different story.