Photo Credit: Garrett James
This weekend, the SFU Men’s Hockey Team are headed to Tempe, Arizona to take on the NCAA Division I Arizona State Sun Devils in exhibition play, marking the third and fourth time this season that SFU has faced Division I talent.
“They’re definitely high calibre, high quality teams,” said head coach Mark Coletta of Division I competition. “They’re always a little bit bigger.”
The Sun Devils are entering their first full year of NCAA competition, having begun the transition from the ACHA to the NCAA last season. Before joining the NCAA, Arizona State was an ACHA powerhouse, having won the national championship in the 2013/14 season.
Stocked with three NHL draft picks — Wade Murphy (185th, 2013, Nashville), Robbie Baillargeon (136th, 2012, Ottawa), Joey Daccord (199th, 2015, Ottawa) — the Sun Devils are loaded with high-end players.
Featuring a number of BCHL alumni including Murphy, who was a teammate of Mike Sandor‘s with the Victoria Grizzlies in the 2011/12 season. Sophomore defenceman Nicholas Gushue, a native of West Vancouver, has played with the Grandview Steelers of the PJHL, the Langley Rivermen, and the Nanaimo Clippers.
The Sun Devils have a number of Spruce Grove Saints alumni — including Tyler Busch, captain Dylan Hollman, and Riley Simpson — where they were coached by current-Vancouver Giants head coach Jason McKee. Simpson is the son of Craig Simpson, former Edmonton Oiler and current Hockey Night in Canada colour commentator, and brother of Dillon Simpson, a defenceman prospect in the Oilers system.
Back in 2012, SFU welcomed the the ACHA Sun Devils at the inaugural Great Northwest Showcase in Burnaby. The Clan have another connection to the Sun Devils as forward Mak Barden played for ASU in 2014/15 before transferring to SFU.
SFU are looking for their first victory against Division I competition, having faced various teams every year since 2011. In October, the Clan faced the Alaska-Fairbanks and Alaska-Anchorage Division I programs, coming close with a competitive 2-0 loss to Fairbanks.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to play composed, we’ve got to play disciplined, and use our speed, because we can definitely skate with them, our skill levels are the same,” said Coletta. “It’s just managing the game in an effective way where you’re not running and gunning — you might have to pick your spots a bit more. But we’re definitely confident going down there.
“And it’s going to be fun, I think the guys are going to enjoy it. We had a great time in Alaska in October, so we’re going to embrace it and go have fun.”
After winning three games in three nights over the weekend, and with a four game winning streak, SFU will be coming into the games with momentum.
SFU will likely split goaltending duties between Jordan Liem and Lyndon Stanwood.
The games will take place at the Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Arizona. Puck drop is at 6:05 pm Friday and Saturday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Scott Patterson — SFU
(7G, 16A, 16GP)
A Division I transfer from Lake Superior State, Scott Patterson knows what he’s up against. This season, Patterson has become a dominant force in the BCIHL, leading SFU in points, and placing fourth in the BCIHL scoring race, despite playing the least amount of games of anyone in the top five. Patterson has a dangerous shot that goalies across the BCIHL fear, but it’s his playmaking abilities that really stand out.
Robbie Baillargeon — ASU
(9G, 14A, 28GP)
One of three NHL prospects on Arizona State — a fifth round pick by the Ottawa Senators in 2012 — Robbie Baillargeon is probably the Sun Devils’ most potent weapon. Leading the team in goals and points, the 6’0, 195 lb forward has knack for making other teams pay for defensive mistakes. Prior to transferring to Arizona State this season, Baillargeon played three seasons with Boston University, where he and the Terriers and made a Frozen Four appearance in 2015.