(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
After four years of playing at multiple levels of college hockey, Robert Levin will play his final two hockey games as an Arizona State Sun Devil this weekend.
For Levin, a goalie who has both ACHA national championship as well as victories over NCAA schools such as UMass-Amherst and Ohio State on his resume, it’s the culmination of a career that has witnessed almost everything that college hockey has had to offer.
Having played both ACHA and NCAA hockey, Levin has experienced the best of both worlds, and his wealth of accomplishments means he is departing the program as a pioneer of prosperity at the highest level and yet someone who is looked upon highly.
His career began in the ACHA, in a much different situation than ASU currently finds itself in. The Sun Devils would dominate most games, and winning championships would most often be the end goal.
Naturally, Levin thrived on this, posting a 22-1 record his freshman year and serving as the starting goalie in the national championship victory. In addition, he took home the tournament MVP award.
Sophomore year brought a similar amount of success for Levin, as he improved on his first year record by finishing 29-2 despite an injury. However, it was the transition to the NCAA that put Levin on the path he is on today.
“At first I couldn’t believe it was happening,” he said regarding the move. “But then it’s just preparing and just getting ready. At the end of the day it’s still hockey and it’s still the same thing.”
Since he was a club goalie who would be competing with those of NCAA caliber, Levin’s odds to earn playing time off the bat were not favorable.
However, it was his tireless work ethic that allowed him to make a smooth transition. In addition, his veteran presence made him an invaluable part of the locker room.
“At the end of the day what you do as a goaltender is the same at any level,” he said. “While there was an obvious speed and skill increase when we switched to the NCAA my basic foundation stayed the same. I think in saying that playing in the ACHA for two years helped me develop as a goalie and put me in a position where I was able to succeed at the next level.”
Although he started the first NCAA game in ASU history, Levin did not earn the same playing time that he did during his first two seasons.
After another injury, he traveled to his hometown of Chicago to begin rehabbing. The combination of treatment that he received from those coaches and the ones at ASU were pivotal in getting him back to full strength.
Now in his senior season, he is healthy and is viewed as the leader among the strong trio of goalies that the Sun Devils feature.
“He’s easily the most selfless kid I’ve ever coached,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “I think that is the best way to describe him as a person: selfless. He is going to be tremendously successful in life because of how hard he works and how selfless he is.”
His leadership style isn’t necessarily traditional, as Levin carries around a soft-spoken demeanor, but rather one that is exemplified through excellence on and off the ice.
The Sun Devils’ other two goalies, freshman Joey Daccord and sophomore Ryland Pashovitz, have benefited immensely from the tutelage of Levin, who is one of the few seniors in the locker room.
“He’s a great kid,” Daccord said. “He’s a good friend of mine. Really someone that took me under his wing this year and definitely shown by example how to handle yourself and what it takes to play at the college level, so he’s been a good role model for me this year.
“On the ice, one of the biggest things is that he always comes to the rink with the same mindset every day. Whether he had a good practice or a bad practice, or a good game or a bad game previously, next time he is out there he is going to give his best effort and hit the reset button and come out there with a fresh slate.”
The bond he has with Pashovitz has grown stronger over the two years that they have played together, and the sophomore mentioned that Levin’s approachability has been why he is such an asset to be around.
“Just talking to him about stuff, it really helps,” Pashovitz said. “As a goalie for him, he just battles really hard. He makes first, second, and third saves, and some of them are unbelievable.”
It would have been tough for the Sun Devils to envision Levin maturing into the player and leader that he is today.
Coming from Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, he was never a blue-chip prospect and his recruitment was rather straightforward. Levin gained some familiarity with the program because he often vacationed in Arizona at a younger age, and he continued to explore his prospects of playing at ASU from there.
“Rob and I connected after he proactively reached out and emailed me,” Powers said. “I was blown away by his maturity and his knowledge of our program before we ever spoke. We continued to communicate and he came to our first ever Final Four game in Chicago and I liked him even more after I met him in person. He finally visited campus and we went to lunch and I think he committed a few days later.”
Now, he has built a legacy for himself in Tempe that exceeds one that any other player has constructed.
“We have three core values that help define ‘Be The Tradition’: integrity, selflessness, and passion,” Powers said. “Robert embodies all of those and then some. Young men like Robert Levin are our major building blocks and without young men like him, we simply are not here today.”
As a near lock to earn at least one start against Simon Fraser this weekend, Levin will return to the place where his Sun Devil career started: Oceanside Ice Arena.
Although he has at times called other places home, such as the Coyotes’ Gila River Arena, it is the trip back to Oceanside that will put things into perspective and allow him to truly look back on a prosperous Sun Devil career.
“I would say I developed a sense of calmness over my time here,” Levin said. “When I came to ASU I would worry about the next shot or the next game and try to force the game at times instead of letting it come to me. As I got older I learned to just let the game come to me and to look at things in that light. I developed a mentality that could be summarized as one shot at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time. This mindset allowed me to never get too high after a big win or too low after a tough performance.”
The mark that Levin will leave at ASU is living proof that situations, both inside and outside the college hockey realm, can take a drastic turn for the better despite the unforeseen interference of roadblocks.
“Rob is a kid whose footprint on our program will be unique and one-of-a-kind in the most positive way possible,” Powers said. “He won a national championship as our starting goalie and put our program on the map and has now proven to be a legitimate NCAA Division-I goalie.”