Wildcats hockey starts up season's rivalry games
No. 20 Arizona hockey (2-0-0) will head up to Tempe, Ariz., Friday for this weekend’s series against No. 2 ASU (3-0-0) on a winless streak of 32 games.
The past two seasons, the Wildcats finished 0-7-1 against the Sun Devils. Since head coach Sean Hogan took over in 2011, ASU has outscored Arizona 82-33.
“Coach Hogan’s been saying it the past week and all of us upperclassmen feel that this team we have right now has the best opportunity to beat those guys,” junior defenseman Shane Gleason said. “We’re pretty confident in ourselves and we’re definitely going to take it to them this weekend.”
For the Wildcats’ nine new recruits and one walk-on, this will be their first time playing the Sun Devils.
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat
“I’m not a fan of ASU and I’ve never even been to the school or know any of the players,” freshman forward Grant Nicholson said. “But I’ve watched a few of the highlights of the games that Coach Hogan sent me and playing in them just looks unbelievable. You can see the hatred between the two schools and teams, which is pretty cool.”
ASU has come out of the gates firing in 2013, outscoring the two ACHA Division II opponents it faced, 33-2.
The Sun Devils brought a lot of offensive firepower, as four players who scored 44 or more points last season returned for 2013-14. Sophomore forward Kale Dolinski led the team in points last season with 59 and tied for fourth in the ACHA Division I with 34 goals.
Returners Dolinski, along with senior forwards Colin Hekle, Danny McAuliffe and Brian McGinty combined for 207 total points last year on 93 goals and 114 assists.
Three games into this season, McGinty currently leads the Sun Devils with eight points. Right behind him are Dolinski and freshman forward Zachary Holstrom, even at seven.
“ASU is right now the No. 2 team in the country; they’re probably the No. 1 team though,” Hogan said. “But we’re better, too. We improved mentally over last year. If we can play our game, stay out of the penalty box and give a strong game at the end, we can beat anybody.”
The Arizona coaching staff has yet to name a starting goalie for Friday and Saturday night’s games.
Sophomore Dylon Hojnacki was in net last Friday versus NAU and made 31 saves on 32 shots against. The next day, senior Steven Sisler got the nod, giving up three goals on 22 shots faced.
Hogan mentioned freshman Garrett Patrick could start a game this weekend as well.
“If a guy starts standing out as the number one starter, then we’ll make that announcement,” Hogan said, “but I’m fairly confident that all these guys are going to get a shot.”
The Sun Devils will likely start freshman Robert Levin between the pipes. In two victorious starts, he has saved 20 out of 21 shots. He was drafted in the eighth round of the United States Hockey League and was also offered spots on several NCAA Division I programs, but chose to attend ASU. Levin’s 0.66 goals against average leads the ACHA Division I.
“Beating ASU is a personal goal, considering we haven’t done it in a long time, but what we want to do is win the national tournament,” senior forward Andrew Murmes said before the season started. “We won one, they haven’t. We might lose eight games to them, but if we win that national tournament, that’s all that matters.”
— Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo