(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
With a new season comes a clean slate for Arizona State, which begins its second year in the NCAA with two games in South Bend, Ind. against No. 9 Notre Dame on Friday and Saturday.
Last year’s team had many new faces, and this season it’s much of the same deal, with lots of freshman and transfers expected to lead the team.
Tough Early Schedule
The Irish may be the best opponent the Sun Devils will face all season. Head coach Greg Powers scheduled them strategically, however, knowing that even just one win would be the ultimate momentum boost.
“I think it’s going to set the tone for us, win lose or draw,” Powers said. “For a team that we think is capable of winning, it is good for having them figure out what it is going to take. Notre Dame is really good, they have a heck of a team.”
Last year, ASU had an incredibly difficult schedule and struggled for a good majority of it.
In addition to the Irish, challenging foes like Northeastern, Harvard, and Michigan are on the docket and will provide a good of where the Sun Devils stand in year two.
Fluctuating Goalie Situation
Much like last season, ASU will enter with three capable goalies. Senior Robert Levin and sophomore Ryland Pashovitz both return, but it’s freshman Joey Daccord who may be getting the most playing time of the three.
Powers already said that Daccord and Levin will be the two goalies that the Devils bring on the trip, and that throughout the season the Sun Devils anticipate they will go with a two-goalie rotation; they are just still figuring out which two.
Daccord hopes to get the opportunity to start and put ASU in a situation to win, and he knows their mentality is simple.
“We just need to understand that we can compete with anybody,” he said. “If we go in with the confidence that we can beat anybody and that nobody is better than us, we will be fine.”
Redshirts Look to Make an Impact
Five players redshirted last season, and each and every one of them figures to make an impact this year.
Dylan Hollman, who has yet to play a game in a Sun Devil uniform, was already named the captain for the season. Wade Murphy, a former player at hockey powerhouse North Dakota, should be on the first line against the Fighting Irish.
“I speak for all the redshirts, all five of us that we are excited to play this weekend,” Murphy said. “The year off was tough but I think we got better. More time in the weight room, more time on the ice.”
He was previously drafted by the Nashville Predators in the NHL Draft, giving him a pedigree that few others have on the team.
David Norris, Louie Rowe, and Jake Montgomery are the other three redshirts from last season, and each will be a key cog for the Sun Devils.
Strong Freshman Class
In addition to Daccord, some other freshmen should see the ice very quickly. One of those is Brett Gruber, a forward who has already forced his way onto one of the best lines during the M&G scrimmage.
“The line that has been the best and most consistent has been Gruber, Hollman, and Louie Rowe,” Powers said.
Brinson and Steenn Pasichnuk and Riley Simpson are three other freshmen who should figure their ways into the rotation early on.
Murphy mentioned that the freshmen have acclimated themselves well to the team, making chemistry a non-issue.
Last year’s large freshman class is now a year older, which makes those players more experienced.
Hobey Baker Award nominee Jordan Masters will look to build off of last season, when he led the Sun Devils in points. Defensemen Joey Raats put up impressive first-year assist totals, while veteran Ryan Belonger established himself as one of the more clutch players on the team.
No matter who is out there for ASU, Powers is confident the results will be an improvement over last season, naming overall skill and goal scoring as reasons for why the record should be less lopsided.
“We always had a next-man-up mentality as a club program,” he said. “It didn’t matter who was hurt, who was suspended. The next guy stepped up and we continued to win. We have a lot of depth up front.
“The biggest difference is that we have a wide variety of guys who can lead us to success.”