Well, it’s that time of year; the Holiday season is upon us! This is a great time to celebrate with friends and family, but not the best time for college hockey. As many teams release their players for a few days off, the schedule is usually pretty slim. There are only 13 games being played this weekend. Fortunately, there are still a few interesting match-ups to ramble on about. Since it’s their first meeting in NCAA history, let’s saddle up and head west, as Arizona State visits Colorado College.
Colorado College Tigers v. Arizona State Sun Devils
Saturday, 12/16/17 and Sunday, 12/17/17
Puck Drop- 6:00PM (ET) and 2:00PM (ET)
Broadmoor World Arena; Colorado Springs, CO
Let’s just start off by informing you that this series may not be “Game of the Year” quality. Colorado College is a good program that continues to produce positive results, but rarely has the capability to make a strong post-season run. Arizona State is competing in their third season as a Division-I hockey team, as they continue to transition from their former ACHA (club hockey) status. The Tigers are maintaining a record of 7-7-2, while the Sun Devils have managed just a 4-9-3 mark this season.
One would think sitting at 0.500 is nothing special, but it’s important to look at the big picture. Colorado College battles it out with some of the best teams in the country, competing in the NCHC. Although they have only earned three conference victories, those wins came against #6 North Dakota, #23 Miami, and #25 Nebraska-Omaha. Last weekend, they skated to a pair of ties (4-4 and 1-1) against #2 Denver, which really shows their potential. The Tigers are one of those teams that can win on any given night and are capable of holding down the ice against any opponent. They have yet to really break out of their shell, but it could be coming before the end of the season.
The Black and Gold has been riding the hot hand of Nick Halloran, who has 22 points in 16 games played this year. He has been a bright spot, already doubling his production from last year’s campaign. Just a point behind, Mason Bergh is leading his team with 10 goals. Beyond that, the Tigers are lacking true depth. There are only two other skaters on the roster who have scored in the double-digits. Sophomore Alex Leclerc has been holding down their net, playing in all 16 games this season. His 452 saves on the season are good for a 0.913 SV%, as well as a 2.80 GAA.
At the beginning of the season, Arizona State had hoped for a better year. Their record indicates they still have some work to do. College hockey fans need to realize that building an NCAA program is extremely difficult. You have to hire the right staff, recruit the right players, and hope the local community supports the team. It took Penn State five years to build a quality program and now they are a tough competitor every time they take the ice. It may take the Sun Devils some more time, but their hard work should eventually pay off. Currently, they are an Independent team, meaning they do not belong to any major NCAA conference. They should be making this decision within the next year or two, which will provide them an opportunity to expand their brand and move forward.
In terms of scoring, Brett Gruber (3-8-11) and Tyler Busch (5-5-10) are leading the charge. Joey Daccord is their go-to netminder, playing in 15 of 16 games this season, including all four victories. He holds a 0.917 SV% and 3.04 GAA. Daccord has received high praise from scouts, who have compared his style to Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils.
The Sun Devils skated well in their last bout, earning a 4-3 OT win against Princeton. Late in the game and down by one goal, Arizona State earned a powerplay opportunity. Head coach Greg Powers pulled Daccord to give them a two-man advantage. Just under a minute on the clock, freshman Johnny Walker scored the game-tying goal with the primary helper coming from Gruber. At 1:47 of the OT period, David Norris ripped a shot that found twine, winning it for the Sun Devils. This type of win shows that this team can overcome adversity and that the players have a “no quite” attitude. They will bring their best effort to Colorado Springs this weekend as they face off against the Tigers.
Players to Watch:
Colorado College Tigers- Sophomore Forward, Nick Halloran; Junior Forward, Trey Bradley; Sophomore Goalie, Alex Leclerc
Fun fact of the day, Trey Bradley is the son of Brian Bradley, who played 10+ seasons in the NHL.
Arizona State Sun Devils- Sophomore Forward, Brett Gruber; Junior Defense, Jakob Stridsberg; Sophomore Goalie, Joey Daccord (Drafted 199th Overall in 2015 by the Ottawa Senators)