Wildcats hot, Sun Devils not
On Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3, the Arizona hockey team will play its first game since November 18 against Missouri State. But it won’t be just any game, it’s a big-time rivalry with ASU coming to town.
What makes this matchup special is the position both teams are in heading into the game. Spoiler alert: UA is is well off, and ASU isn’t.
The Wildcats have been through a reasonable amount of struggle with tough opponents such as Central Oklahoma and Missouri State, but still have a record of 14-6. Anthony Cusanelli is also tied for the league lead in goals with 22, and sits seventh among all players in points with 32.
Meanwhile ASU is 9-15 on their season after posting a record of 24-11 just last year. Jake Savona, who was ASU’s leading scorer when they first came to town in September, is tied for the point lead with teammate Austin Ehrlich. The two have 22 points, though Savona has accumulated those points in 15 games while Ehrlich has done so in 22 games. Savona also leads the team in goals with 12.
The last time these two teams clashed in Tucson, Arizona took control of the game and won 8-4 with two tallies by both Orion Olsen and Trey Decker. The next matchup took place in Tempe and Arizona won once again, that time by a score of 6-4. Anthony Cusanelli was just warming up his season at that point, but registered two goals on the night nonetheless.
Just because Arizona has won against the Sun Devils before and has a statistical advantage, ASU could very well pull out a win. It’s not characteristic of the Wildcats to get complacent so that’s not likely to bite them, but rust is a possible factor.
The ‘Cats are coming off Thanksgiving weekend after a 2-1 series in Alabama and Missouri, so rust is always a possibility, even if most of the squad is young and quick and not likely to be slowed down by one week without a game. This could wind up hurting the Wildcats and result in an ASU win, or it could help them since they spent a lot of time traveling as of late so it was a well-timed bye-week.
Despite it being Thanksgiving last week, ASU could still be hungry – hungry for a win that is. Nothing can get a season going again quite like a swift win against a rival. The Sun Devils know as well as the Wildcats how important this matchup is to each season, so they will be willing to risk a lot to come out on top. Look for ASU to come out just as hot as they did in the first contests this season. Place some bets on Savona getting the opening goal.
That being said, Savona is the player to watch on Arizona State’s side. As for Arizona, there’s Josh Larson.
Cusanelli is leading in both points and goals and often gets the spotlight for his feats, but Larson is an underrated winger who sits at third on the team in points (24) and second in goals (14). He’s found twine against ASU before, netting one goal in each game against ASU previously. Expect his line with Justin Plumhoff and Trey Decker to be leading the way for the squad with their speed, agility, and agitating.
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at the Tucson Convention Center.
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