(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
If you are searching for the face of college hockey in Arizona right now, look no further than Anthony Croston.
The Arizona State forward has taken a huge step forward in his sophomore season, which has ultimately led to him being named an alternate captain, a rare feat for someone playing in just their second year of college.
He has a local flair that is not often found with hockey in the state of Arizona, which is more known for some of its baseball and football players. The valley native grew up in Phoenix and attended Pinnacle High School.
Serving as alternate captain allows Croston to be an ambassador of sorts for the sport in the Phoenix area. Hockey has seen immense growth over the past few years in the state, and players like Croston have been a big reason why.
“I think it’s pretty cool that the alternate captain is a local guy,” he said. “I think it’s a good influence on youth hockey and shows that guys from here can play at the top level.”
Croston has made sure to carry over his good influence on the community over to his teammates as well.
About a month-and-a-half into what he has called an “awesome” time as alternate captain, he has slightly altered his approach on the ice for the betterment of the team.
“At first I was a quieter guy, but I’m trying to voice myself a little bit more,” Croston said. “I’m a lead by example type of guy and I think it’s been good so far.”
Leadership qualities seem to be something that Croston has constantly possessed over the past few years, as he also served as captain during his final season in the North American Hockey League.
The man who gave him the title, head coach Greg Powers, seems more than satisfied with Croston’s work this season.
“He’s invaluable to us,” he said. “His speed, leadership, and work ethic is just incredible and that’s why he has an “A.” His contributions off the ice are equally as big, because he is just a kid who always does the right thing. He’s been huge for us.”
Croston’s array of contributions have not always come across on the stat sheet. He was the forgotten man at times last season, posting only seven total points. This year, he is fifth on team with 13 points, five of which came in one game, and he only has three goals.
“You could probably argue that he’s been our most consistently performing player,” Powers said. “We don’t always judge player’s success by the amount of points they have, but their impact on games, and he has had more of an impact on games than anybody has all year. Offensively, with offensive zone possession and using his speed off the rush and protecting the puck. And he’s by far our best defensive forward.”
In order to become a more complete player, Croston has been working on his shot to complement his speed, which is what he considers to be his best trait.
His overall work ethic has been so strong that Powers has big expectations for the player that he thinks Croston can be.
“I don’t think we’ve seen even close to his best,” he said. “By the time he is a senior and he leaves here, he is going to be a hell of a player.”
Croston is already on a strong path in his Sun Devil career. His strong leadership and playing qualities figure to not only make him a cornerstone of the team, but also a big part of the growth of hockey in the state of Arizona.
“He had a good career in the North American League and had some opportunities to go other places,” Powers said. “But he wanted to come back home and help us build a program in his hometown and he’s helping us do that.”