#16 Arizona State in town tonight

Photo credit: Richard Hovey
Photo credit: Richard Hovey

#16 Arizona State University (6-1) @ University of Arkansas (3-14)

Puck Drop: Thursday October 27th at 8:30pm
Location: The Jones Center Springdale, AR
Broadcast: mixlr.com/hoghockey
Author credit: http://droptheglovesproductions.com/

On Thursday night, the Arkansas Razorbacks Division 1 hockey team welcomes WCHL foe Arizona State to town for their first ever matchup with the Sun Devils. Coming off losing their last two at home against Illinois State, the Hogs are hoping to get back on track against the #16 team in the ACHA.

ASU returns to the WCHL this season after taking a year off while their NCAA D1 program got under way. The Sun Devils are picking up right where they left off, starting the season 6-1 (2-1, WCHL) while climbing in the ACHA rankings each week. The team that won the ACHA Division 1 National Championship in 2013-2014, and back to back WCHL regular season championships in the two years before their hiatus is once again looking like a contender.

The Razorbacks came into the season with moderate expectations from the WCHL, picked to finish 7th in the league, and have struggled to find their footing. After winning their first 2 games, the Hogs lost 14 out of 15 games, dropping them out of the ACHA top 25.  The record doesn’t tell the whole story as the D1 squad has lost nine games by 2 goals or less. With a system heavy program, Coach Gallini hopes his men can turn their season around by winter break.

Three Things to Watch

  1. Arkansas’ Goaltending

The Hogs have a trio of goalies that can step in on any given night, all of whom have a GAA near or above 4.00. The Sun Devils are averaging exactly 4 goals per game so it can be expected that they will score 4 goals. Can the Hogs offense keep up? With 60 goals in 17 games, Arkansas is just a shade under 4 goals per game. So, whichever Arkansas goalie gets the nod for this game will be relied on heavily to keep the score close.

  1. ASU’s Ostertag(s)

The Sun Devils field a couple of men name Ostertag, Dylan and Ryan. With a combined 19 points on the season, the duo makes up 27.5% of the offense. Add in forward Michael Cummings and you get 42% of all the points on the team. What does this mean for Arkansas? If they can slow the top scorers on the Sun Devils and force the rest of the team to beat them, they can significantly increase their chances of getting the victory.

  1. Hogs in the Pen

The Razorbacks penalty kill has been poor this season. At 76.8%, they rank 318th in the ACHA. With 253 penalty minutes on the year (that’s 14 minutes per game!); the Hogs will be in trouble if they continue this trend. Penalties happen, but they will need to eliminate the unnecessary ones, many occurring after the whistle. The good news is the Sun Devils power play hasn’t exactly been spectacular (10.2%), but it would be best to not even give them the chance.

Final Analysis

On paper, Arizona State appears to be the better team. They have the better record and are ranked higher both in the ACHA and the WCHL. If common opponents mean anything, ASU beat OU 3-1 while the Hogs lost 5-4 and 3-1, and Arkansas lost to Central Oklahoma 3-1 while the Sun Devils beat the Bronchos 7-4 before losing the rematch 3-2. Arizona State will be a tough out for the Hogs, but the final result may be closer than most might think. It’s a long trip from Tempe and when the crowd gets going at the Jones Center, it’s a tough place to play. Let’s hope the fans come out in full force this week and rattle the Sun Devils by Calling the Hogs!