(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
As graduate defenseman Brock Krygier watched on in last Saturday’s game, the Sun Devils had built a steady 3-0 lead over the Southern New Hampshire University Penmen in the second period. It was the team’s second game in Oceanside Ice Arena, a smaller venue at risk of bursting at the seams after reaching its 747-person capacity, and the crowd comprised of those lucky enough to make it inside watched on as the flagship program settled into its new home.
Krygier’s shift had started, and he climbed onto the ice to do what he has done best for three – going on four – years of playing collegiate hockey: limit the offensive opportunities of the opposition.
However, with 13 minutes remaining in the period, Krygier found himself in an unfamiliar, but welcomed position. He had just received the feed from freshman forward Jordan Masters and reared back ready to fire on goal.
As the puck hit the back of the net, the culmination of cheers and Motley Crew’s “Shout at the Devil” blared through the jam-packed arena. The Devils had just increased their lead to four, and more importantly, Krygier, the Michigan State transfer, had just scored his first collegiate goal.
“Obviously it’s always nice to score goals, that’s what all the little kids and everyone wants to do,” Krygier said. “But I know my role is primarily a stay-at-home defenseman, I keep the puck out of our net first.”
It had been two years since Krygier had recorded his first point as a member of the Michigan State Spartans, an assist against Boston University on Oct. 26, 2013. That year, he had played in 35 games as a redshirt sophomore and made an impact immediately. His plus-four rating led the team and he became the first freshman since Chris Bogas in 1993 to lead the team in plus/minus efficiency. The accolades started to pile up on the ice, but to his advantage, Krygier was just as strong in the classroom as he was in skates.
While the struggle of balancing sports and school isn’t for the faint of heart, Krygier thrived in the position and was recognized with All-Big Ten Academic and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar honors in his second year. He continued to turn heads in his third and final year in East Lansing, earning a GPA over 3.7 and yet another Big Ten Distinguished Scholar nod.
After three years with the Spartans, Krygier was able to earn his bachelor’s degree and start exploring masters programs at various institutions throughout the country.
“I wouldn’t have been able to transfer anywhere and play right away if I didn’t earn my degree,” Krygier said. “So once you earn a degree and you start a masters program, then you can go to a different school to pursue whatever masters program you’re interested in. So if it’s not offered at Michigan State, or if they have a different type of program, there is all those different options.
“Because I earned my degree, I was able to look at different programs throughout the country and find which masters program suited me in my educational goals and ultimately career goals down the road.”
It just so happened that an opportunity to help lead a Division I program in its inaugural season paired with a masters program he found suitable was too much for Krygier to pass up.
Krygier decided he would transfer to Arizona State on Apr. 15, 2015 to play out his last two years of eligibility.
“I think it’s just a really unique opportunity, obviously being an inaugural program in its inaugural season I’m going to be a part of something that very few hockey players or even college athletes get to be a part of,” Krygier said. “Very few get to start a program, the last one was Penn State, and we played against them when I was at Michigan State, I just thought that would be such a cool opportunity.
“Really just getting to set the foundation for a program to come, obviously it’s a big-time Pac-12 school, similar to sort of like the Big Ten, how there is a ton of students and a ton of interest in hockey, so to be able to come in there and really set the foundation and get the program rolling I thought that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
This time around, though, Krygier wouldn’t be the “youngest player to,” or have very many “career firsts.” Instead, he would be helping to mold the next wave of players to carry the legacy that he places such a high importance on. He would play the role of mentor, and everything that he learned at Michigan State would prove to be pivotal in what he would be expected to contribute to this team.
His dedication to his role on the ice, dedication to the goals of this team and dedication to leading by example just comes with the territory at this point in his career.
“I think I’ve used a lot of my experience in my time at Michigan State to help me with that,” Krygier said. “I had great mentors, great captains, great upperclassman while I was at Michigan State, guys that really showed me how to treat the younger guys, how to compete and do well at the NCAA level.
“So I just tried to be a sponge and take in as much information, experience and just what they had to say and what they did, I tried to take all that in just so when I became an upperclassman, I’d be able to give that down to younger guys.”
Through eight games this season, Krygier has amassed two total points on one goal and one assist and is tied for third on the team with eight blocks on the defensive side.
However, his presence isn’t just seen through the points or any other statistic. It’s much deeper than that. The expectation is that he do all he can to leave a lasting impact on the foundation long after he has moved on, long after he is blocking shots or playing alongside fellow defenseman Joey Raats.
“He [Krygier] has had a positive impact,” head coach Greg Powers said. “He’s experienced and he’s just a level-headed kid. He brings a nice steady presence to us in the room and on the ice and on the bench. He’s a great student and a good influence on all our guys.”
It doesn’t matter if Krygier never sees another shot find the back of the net, or ever assists on another goal. He would be just fine if that were the case. He finds his worth in doing what he’s expected to do to the best of his ability – to lay the foundation for this team.
Krygier, much like the other veterans on this team, is expected to do one thing above all else: exemplify the mantra this team has embraced since it was first announced they would be moving to the NCAA.
He is expected to be the tradition.