(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Through six games of its first full NCAA season, Arizona State boasts an underwhelming record of 1-5-0. Each of the team’s six opponents has been nationally-ranked as top-20 programs and out of the remaining 14 teams that are scheduled, the Sun Devils will play seven more who are also amongst the 20 best teams in the country as of today.
It’s been the mantra since the program’s conception – Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson has said that the team will shy away from no one in its early stages and head coach Greg Powers has wholeheartedly stood by this approach, regardless of the six wins through the team’s first 33 games.
To him, it’s not about the results, it’s about the lessons.
“We believe in our team, we like our players,” Powers said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “We’re inexperienced and young, but part of the reason we were able to get good, talented young players is because we committed to scheduling opponents like we have, so that’s the strategy as we build our program.”
Over the weekend, Arizona State dropped both of its games at Matthews Arena against Northeastern by a combined margin of 11-3. The two-game road trip is something that spectators have become accustomed to seeing from this team.
Powers, however, believes what is on display is a trial by fire period in which his players are learning how to play at the Division I level by taking on its most elite teams.
Within the next couple of years, he believes that his opinion on the team’s ambition behind its scheduling will be proven.
“I know in my heart that when these kids are all juniors and seniors, for what they’re going through right now, the learning curve is steep and they’re learning things the hard way, it’s going to make us better,” Powers said. “A win against a team that’s ranked low and not a contending program, long-term, won’t do anything for us.”
Even with all of the struggles to this point, the team has still experienced subtle victories along the way – most notably, the team’s first win over a ranked opponent last weekend in the win against Air Force.
Regardless of the losing, Powers thinks that milestones, such as the win over Air Force, are the silver lining that accompanies the whole process.
“People say, ‘oh, what about a winning culture and letting your kids feel a win,’ I mean, we beat a really good team in Air Force,” Powers said. “That win, our kids are going to cherish forever, it wasn’t a win against a low-ranked team.”
This weekend, the process continues against No. 13 Harvard at Gila River Arena on Friday and Oceanside Ice Arena on Saturday.
“Harvard’s good,” Powers said. “They have a litany or NHL picks; they’ve got a great coaching staff. It’s technically their first game of the season because they’re in Ivy [League], so they’re healthy, they’re fresh, they have that going for them, but they also haven’t played six games like us.
“We’re confident, our kids are confident, we’re learning every week and we’re going to take every experience that we get with such an ambitious schedule and use it to our advantage.”