Fully Healthy for the Final Stretch
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A revived and rejuvenated Sun Devil Hockey squad hits the final stretch of the 2020-21 season with a two-game series at Michigan State, beginning with a Valentine's Day battle Sunday at 3 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. MT on BTN+.
For the first time since the opening series of the regular season back in November, the Sun Devils (5-13-2) are back to being completely healthy after missing pieces of their roster for the last 18 games.
"I want to see more of what we saw on Friday [vs. U.S. NTDP]," said head coach Greg Powers. "I don't care about the results. I want the process to be perfect. I want the process to what we've built this program on. I want effort and blue-collar mentality, and us-against-the-world mentality. Because that's what it is, it's us against the world, and our guys got away from that.
Sun Devil Rewind
After missing portions of their roster for the last 18 games -- at one point even 20% of their offensive production -- head coach Greg Powers and the Sun Devils finally return to full strength for this final stretch of the season. With the recent news of the Penn State series being canceled, ASU will complete the 2020-21 season with six games over the next three weeks. With the postseason out of reach for the first time in three seasons, the team focuses on building momentum towards the 2021-22 season with the young talent who have already made a significant impact. Freshman forward MATTHEW KOPPERUD continues to pace his rookie peers across the country in goals scored (12), while sitting in a tie for 2nd overall nationally. He's five off the program record for goals scored by a freshman, while six points away from the points record -- both held by senior forward JOHNNY WALKER. Between the pipes, fellow freshman COLE BRADY steps in after returning from mononucleosis that held him out since early January. He's coming off a 31-save performance against the U.S. NTDP (U-18) with his shutout opportunity spoiled by a late power-play goal.
It's been a rough year in the Big Ten if your nickname starts with an 'S' as the Spartans have had some sporadic success like the Sun Devils, but ultimately have recently suffered due to missing players. In their most recent series with Wisconsin, Michigan State was missing veteran leaders like Charlie Combs, Nico Muller, Cole Krygier and Jagger Joshua -- the three being top-six forwards for the Spartans and Krygier a veteran d-man. Also like the Sun Devils, head coach Dan Cole expects his team to return fully healthy for the upcoming series.
Since the Spartans opened up their season hosting ASU back in November, defenseman Dennis Cesana paces the team in points with 10, while senior forward Mitchell Lewandowski co-leads in goals along with Charlie Combs with five. In goal, junior Drew DeRidder has played in 18 of the 20 games this season, posting a 6-10-2 record despite an impressive .932 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average.