Two inactive players, the potential debut of as many as 13 Arizona Icecats and the pressure of the ASU-UA rivalry might not look like the recipe for success in tonight's season opener in Tempe.
When the puck drops in the Oceanside Arena at 7:30 p.m., Icecat nation will surely see what the new-look Icecats are made of.
""The absence of (Jordan) Schupan and (Austin) Capobianco gives other players opportunities to step up, that's how you have to look at it,"" associate coach Dave Dougall said. ""It's their shot, time for them to make a name for themselves.""
Junior forward Schupan and senior defenseman Capobianco will miss the two-game series due to pneumonia, leaving it up to a handful of the 13 first-year Icecats traveling with the team to pick up the slack.
The Icecats know what they will get from the eight active returning players, but the question lies in those first-year players who have yet to take the ice.
Thirteen new Icecat players debuted over the course of the season last year and head coach Leo Golembiewski expects as many as 13 to debut in the season opener tonight as well. Some of the new players are being thrown into the fire early, but players and coaches alike are quite confident the Icecat rookies will come out unscathed.
""We have confidence in (the young players), but they have to prove it first,"" Dougall said.
""It's going to be up to some of the new guys to see what it's all about right away.""
The Icecats will have their hands full with a hot ASU team that is coming off of a 13-0 slaughtering of Brigham Young University. But Golembiewski knows that in a game as emotional as this one, all records go out the window.
""When you play Arizona State, you sort of throw the baby out of the bath water because nothing means anything,"" Golembiewski said.
There will be a lot of emotions flying around Oceanside Arena today and tomorrow, but Golembiewski and company hope to look beyond the rivalry and focus on what matters — getting the win.
""Do we want to beat them? Yes,"" Golembiewski said. ""But we want to beat them just as badly as anyone else. We didn't form our team 31 years ago to worry about Arizona State.""
Inactive players or not, the Icecats expect big things out of first-timers Sean and Shane MacLachlan, Scott Wilson, Chad Wade, Adam and Andrew Treptow, Nicholas Stolz and Zachary Waxenberg, among others.
""We are a very well-rounded team,"" said senior defenseman Zach Cherney. ""We can easily run three or four lines.""
That depth will be key for a team depleted by sickness and injury. While the team does have a lot of first-year Icecats, all of the players have been playing hockey for most of their lives.
But is knowing how to play hockey the same as knowing how to win against an archrival on the road, not to mention being on a completely new team that is missing two of its leaders?
The coaching staff can call it just another game all they want, but the players know what is at stake when they play ASU: Pride, dignity, bragging rights and, most importantly, the strong start to the season that the Icecats need to make nationals.
""When we play ASU everybody shows up, no one leaves anything on the ice, and that's how it should be every game,"" said sophomore defenseman Geordy Weed. ""We can thank ASU for that, because they'll make us bring it quick, no slacking.""