(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
For a second year program, Arizona State’s resume has been nothing short of impressive.
Even though its record is just 10-18-2, ASU has had some important wins that have lifted the spirits of many in the program and have made them believe that something bigger is on the horizon.
One of the prime examples of that came last weekend, when the Sun Devils took one of two games against Quinnipiac, who participated in the Frozen Four last season. Granted the Bobcats lost some talent from last year, but for the newest team in the NCAA to knock them off on the road, it says something about the progress that they have made.
“We marked the Quinnipiac weekend on our schedule for a while now,” ASU junior forward Wade Murphy said. “We really wanted to show the college world that we could play with anyone, and that’s what we did last weekend.”
For Murphy, a transfer who played two seasons at North Dakota, one of the more accomplished hockey programs in the NCAA, the winning feeling has been a little different at ASU.
“At North Dakota there is maybe a little more pressure to win,” he said. “So a lot of guys are more stressed, but here we have a little more cushion, so we just have to work hard. The big thing is confidence and working hard and then the wins will come.”
Now that’s not saying there is a lack of pressure to win in Tempe, but the leeway due to the fact that they are an upstart program has eased the feeling of a lot of players. This has sometimes led to them being looser when it is time for those big games.
Going out on to the ice with something to prove has also led to wins against ranked teams such as Air Force and Ohio State, which they had the virtue of doing on national television.
ASU head coach Greg Powers, the architect of the tough schedule that the Sun Devils have had to play over the last two seasons, is thrilled that his plan is paying dividends.
“It’s kind of how we drew it up and hoped it would happen,” he said. “We played this tough schedule knowing full well what we were getting into and how difficult it would be. I was hoping we would get to double-digit wins on the season, and we are there. So it’s great for our young group. They know how to play the right way and that when they play disciplined, we can play with anybody.”
As evidenced by this past weekend, a lot of Friday struggles that the Sun Devils have gotten themselves into have benefitted them on Saturday.
Being so new, they have needed some extra time to acclimate themselves to their competition, which is expected to be less and less of an issue going forward.
“We dig ourselves a hole a little bit and then the third period rolls around and we are like, hey we can play with these guys,” Powers said. “That carries into Saturday and you see a 60-minute effort and a game full of belief in themselves, and we have had some success that way. We’re trying to get these guys in a mindset so that there is no more feeling teams out. We have proven that we can compete with the best teams and now they have to translate that into a full weekend.”
Powers mentioned that the key for the players is believing in themselves. With a lot of players who are new to the type of play in the NCAA, that may be perceived as difficult initially, but the Sun Devils are coming along to it quite well.
“Seeing now that we have been winning a couple of games, we found out that we can compete with any team in this league,” ASU freshman defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk said. “All it takes is hard work and if we bring that every night we are going to get it. Everyone is happy in the locker room, especially when we win.”
The steady and impressive way in which ASU is progressing has led to optimism all around the program, and the Sun Devils could start to reap the benefits of success sooner rather than later.
“I know in my four years here, by the time I am done we will be in the tournament, so that’s pretty awesome,” Pashichnuk said.