(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Head coach Greg Powers and the Arizona State hockey team crossed “defeat a ranked opponent” off of their list of season goals following the team’s 5-2 win over No. 18 Air Force on Sunday.
That accomplishment, however, is rather small on the scale of what Powers hopes this team accomplishes in its first full NCAA season.
“Honestly, it [defeating a ranked opponent] feels really good, but we’re going right back to work,” Powers said. “I can honestly tell you that there’s not a guy on our staff and not a player in our room that didn’t expect that to happen. We wanted to sweep them and we came pretty close, so we still have that home sweep to accomplish.”
Aside from the first game of the two-game series with Notre Dame, the Sun Devils have outscored their opponents 10-8 and have also posted an average of three goals per game on the season, tied the 25th-best mark in the country.
A big part of that offense to this point has been the emergence of freshman Tyler Busch, who has scored four goals through his first four games.
“He’s, I think, a future captain of this program,” Powers said. “I never would’ve thought he’d have four goals in his first four games, I can’t tell you that, but his success doesn’t surprise me and I think he’s barely scratched the surface.”
As far as the milestone goes, Powers feels as though the world of college hockey is split in terms of its reception to the success of Arizona State and the new program.
Regardless, he isn’t sure if they’ve made a statement to those doubters or not, but he remains indifferent.
“There’s a lot of traditionalists out there that, and people, when they don’t understand something and they don’t want to educate themselves with something, they tend to put it down,” Powers said. “So there’s a lot of traditionalists out there that I feel like they’re against us and don’t believe in what we’re building and don’t believe in Arizona State becoming a power in college hockey.
“To those people, I don’t know if it [the win over Air Force] sent a message, or what it did.”
This weekend, the Sun Devils head back on the road and face another test in No. 17 Northeastern, the defending Hockey East conference champions in Boston.
Yet another stepping stone to reaching some of the lofty goals that Powers has set for his team.
“We have bigger goals than the ones we just accomplished,” Powers said. “Much bigger goals than beating the 18th-ranked team in the country, and it’s going to take time but it’s a start, all it is is a start and we’ll build off of it.”