(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
The situation is commonplace at this point. It’s game day and ASU freshman goaltender Ryland Pashovitz will be minding the net for the Sun Devils.
He gets to the arena and starts off by stretching out. Once he’s loose, he shifts his attention to some coordination exercises to prep for the daunting task that is protecting the net. For Pashovitz – or “Pash” as he’s come to be known by fans, teammates and even head coach Greg Powers – bouncing a ball on a wall is one way he does so.
However, he doesn’t stop there. Pashovitz has adapted juggling into his routine as well, a practice that makes catching a puck sound easy.
After his reflexes and body are right, he ends his routine by visualizing.
Visualizing another night in front of the net as an NCAA goalie.
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This season, Pashovitz has started 10 games for Arizona State. His .923 save percentage ranks 25th in the nation. With the injuries to junior goaltender Robert Levin, Pashovitz has earned a lion’s share of the starts and has made the most of his opportunity.
He’s made it difficult for Powers not to give him the start whenever possible.
“I mean obviously right now he is [the starting goaltender],” Powers said. “He’s earned that, you know, Rob’s been hurt and D.J.’s [David Jacobson] had some good moments.
“He’s just playing great; he’s a hell of a goalie. Right now, he’s obviously the go-to guy.”
While Pashovitz has already started to make a name (and even a nickname) for himself in the desert, the challenge of being an international student still looms behind the scenes.
Not only has he had to make the adjustment from the USHL to the NCAA, but the change of being so far from home is still just as fresh as the newly-cut ice he skates onto every weekend.
This life adjustment, however, has been made all the easier thanks to hockey.
“It’s a little different,” Pashovitz said. “I mean, Canada and the U.S., it’s not a whole lot different. I played in the states last year in Iowa; I’m kind of used to it. Obviously school is a little bit different, I’m just kind of learning every day and going from there.”
Naturally, when there are three goalies in the fold, the competition is going to be tough. In a two-game series, there will always be at least one guy who doesn’t get a start. In some cases, like the two-game series at Lake Superior State, one guy can yield both starts.
However, that hasn’t prevented Pashovitz from building relationships with his fellow goalies, especially Levin.
“Rob’s a great guy, I’ve grown to know him pretty well,” Pashovitz said. “We roomed together for a little while before he got injured. He’s a great guy, an awesome goalie, he’s unbelievable. I’m just looking forward to continuing growing that relationship.”
In the residence, Pashovitz said that they didn’t talk about hockey often, but they got to know one another on a personal level and grew a relationship off the ice.
He acknowledged the competition; however, he knows that his relationship with his teammates is about more than who gets the start.
With Levin set to return from injury, though, Pashovitz is ready to do what he can to remain the starter.
“I just kind of take it one game at a time,” Pashovitz said. “One day at a time, you just have to work hard from the start of the week to the end of the week and every time you get a chance, you just have to do your best. Make saves and that’s all you can really do.”
Regardless of what happens at goalie moving forward, Pashovitz has done enough to remain a pivotal part of this team and what they look to accomplish both on and off the ice. As a freshman, he is just another guy from Powers’ first NCAA recruiting class that could help bring this team to new heights in the coming years.
He’s got room to grow, but given his skill level now, that’s a scary thought.
“He’s had the best kind of impact you can have as a new guy,” Powers said. “He really just keeps his mouth shut and works hard. He leads by example, and as a coach, in a goalie that’s really what you look for – a kid that shows up, works hard, never complains and doesn’t point fingers.
“He holds himself accountable every day and the guys play hard for him. He’s a great kid with a great attitude and a really good skill-set.”