(Photo; Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Two years into its history as an NCAA team, Jordan Masters is the face of Arizona State hockey.
However, earlier in the season, it was hard to remember at times that Masters was even a part of the team.
He missed the first nine games of his sophomore season due to a violation of team rules, which head coach Greg Powers kept an internal matter.
Yet since his return, it’s clear just how much his presence was missed. Masters scored a goal in each of his first two games, picking up right where he had left off after his freshman year. In the six games he has been back in the lineup, ASU is 2-4-0 with multiple close losses, its best stretch of the season.
Masters was one of 60 nominees for the Hobey Baker Award last season, which is the hockey equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. He was certainly worthy of the nomination as he was one of the team’s few bright spots, leading the Sun Devils with eight goals, 14 assists and 72 shots.
In order to return to the same form that he had in the 2015-2016 season, Masters said that he worked out on the bike every day. He also mentioned that one of his former coaches lives in the area, and he would skate with him 3-4 times a week so that he could stay loose.
At the same time, he said there was the natural rust when he returned to the ice.
“The first two or three days, I was just getting back up to game speed,” he said. “The first game was UNH where it’s Olympic ice, so that was a battle, but then we went back up to (Boston College), so it felt back to normal that Sunday.”
Even though he had some difficulty with the adjustment while playing New Hampshire, he posted his best game thus far of his young season that, scoring a goal and adding an assist.
He is obviously still with the Sun Devils in his second year, but it’s been almost a change of scenery for Masters with all the retooling that ASU has done. Despite the drastic changes that the team has undergone, he doesn’t feel like his role has changed at all.
“Sometimes when you do a different role than you’re used to it’s tough,” Masters said. “I’m just doing the same thing I did last year, which is working hard, being there for the freshman and all the guys who need help.”
His play has also caught the attention of Powers, who didn’t understate how much of a help it has been to have the dynamic forward back in the fold.
“He has a level of skill and grit and it’s hard to find those two combined in one guy,” Powers said. “He’s been a big boost. We’ve won two games since he’s been back and we had a few really close losses against good teams, so he makes us better.”
For Masters, some of his success may be attributed to his linemates, who also happen to be his roommates.
He teamed up with Robbie Baillargeon and Wade Murphy for a goal – scored by Baillargeon – during last Friday’s win against RPI.
Masters mentioned that he thinks that will be the line that Powers relies on to produce the most consistently.
“I think you could probably see our faces when Robbie fell into the boards there,” Masters said. “We went home that night and we were messing around with it. It’s a good feeling when you score a goal like that. We work on that in practice every day so to see it in a game, it made all of us happy and we were laughing, joking around.
“After the game, we’ll go home and we’ll say little things. We’ll watch video together and just critique each other a little bit.”
There is not much of a secret for Masters’ success. To him, it all boils down to hard work.
“Ever since I’ve been young, I’ve loved to work hard and always go the extra mile,” he said. “When you have freshmen coming in, sometimes they need to see how hard you need to work and what you need to do on and off the ice to be successful.”
As one of the few returners who will earn consistent playing during the rest of 2016 and into 2017, plenty of eyes will be on him.
Some will say that Masters has a lot to prove because of his early season absence, but Powers knows exactly what he is getting from the forward for this season and the rest of his career in Tempe.
“You want to see kids follow up good seasons and continue to improve,” he said. “I think if all goes well with the talent that we continue to bring in over the course of his four years, there is going to be more and more talent and there is no reason why he can’t improve each year.”