Although the weather has entered its winter months, Wildcat hockey is back in Tucson and heating up the desert with a matchup against an upstate rival. Arizona (9-8-3) will host the Sun Devils of Arizona State (20-2-0) in a two-game rivalry showdown Friday and Saturday night at the Tucson Convention Center.
The Wildcats have dropped two spots in the ACHA Division I Rankings to No. 20, while the Sun Devils climbed up to claim the No. 1 spot.
Last week, it was announced that Arizona State’s hockey program has elevated from the 2014 ACHA National Championship to NCAA Division I status. The announcement makes men’s ice hockey Sun Devil Athletics’ 23rd NCAA-sponsored sport. Various sponsors came together to donate $32 million to elevate the program.
“We know that ASU has a lot of talent, but we also know that if we take away their time and space we can shut down their more skilled players,” UA hockey captain Shane Gleason said. “For us, it’s going to come down to hard work, staying disciplined in our systems, and keeping our emotions in check. If we can stick to that game plan, we will have a great chance at winning both games this weekend.”
Arizona State has five players ranked in the top 50 overall in the ACHA for scoring leaders. Ranked No. 17 in scoring is Sun Devil forward Liam Norris, a Calgary, Alberta, native who leads ASU in scoring with a combined total of 30 points from 22 assists and eight goals.
Robert Levin is the starter between the pipes for ASU with a .927 save percentage. This ranks Levin No. 14 overall in the ACHA goalie leaders.
During their last matchup, the Sun Devils swept the Fighting Illini both nights. The Sun Devils’ stifling defense alongside goaltender Levin, held Illinois to one goal each night.
Earlier this season, Arizona State swept Arizona in Tempe 4-1 and then again 3-0. The only goal of the series was put in the net during a power play by UA forward Alex O’Dea, with assists from Will Pointon and Michael Adamowicz. O’Dea has a total of 10 points this season from five goals and five assists.
“I’m really excited about ASU coming to the TCC for the first time this season”, Adamowicz said. “We have been preparing all week, and really all season, to beat this team. Nothing would make all of us happier than to get the sweep and show everyone that we also have the ability to compete at their level.”
Pointon, Gleason, Robbie Wilkinson and Alex Nespor all lead the Wildcats in scoring with 13 points each. With 11 points each are Dylan Carter and Adamowicz.
Freshman goalie Austin Wilson has a save percentage of .938 during three games this season. Garrett Patrick remains as the starting goalie for Arizona with a .903 save percentage.
The puck drops both Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. If you come to the game on Saturday, bust out your ugly sweaters — that’s the theme.
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