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ASU Hockey: Robert Levin’s journey back from a torn ACL

(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)

Robert Levin’s list of accomplishments in the ACHA over the last two seasons has been nothing short of impressive.

Levin held a 51-3 record in two years as a starter, a 1.45 cumulative goals against average, a 0.95 save percentage on top of an ACHA Rookie of the Year nod and topped off with ACHA National Tournament MVP honors.

Now, the Highland Park, Ill. native can add ‘NCAA goalie’ to that list of achievements.

Levin started in the season opener on Saturday, the first game in the history of Arizona State’s new Division I NCAA program.

An accomplishment made so much sweeter by the journey it took to get to that point.

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On Feb. 27, just two days before the Sun Devils were set to begin their title defense in the 2014 ACHA National Tournament, Levin had been informed that he had torn his ACL in the season finale against the University of Arizona.

“First thing I thought of was the timeline,” Levin said. “What I needed to do to get back and just being ready for the first game of the season.”

For Levin, the goal from the beginning was to return on Aug. 25, just six months removed from the injury. Rehab consisted of working with the team’s training staff and completing assorted workouts at home, all with that specific date in mind.

With that date having come and gone, the third-year net minder has been cleared to return to the ice. While there have been limitations, the reigns are slowly coming off.

“He’s still not completely on top of everything yet, but he’s getting there every day,” head coach Greg Powers said. “You know, I actually shouldn’t say that, he looks pretty good. For somebody that had such a severe injury six-and-a-half months ago, we’re really happy with that.

“He’s ready to go.”

For a guy who didn’t even know he had torn his ACL until a few days after the game in which he played through the injury, toughness has been the underlying theme of this entire journey.

From setting his own return date, to the workout regimen both at home and with team trainers, Levin’s determination culminated on Saturday when he got to skate onto the ice at Gila River Arena and man his post in between the pipes for the first NCAA hockey game in the history of Arizona State University.

“It was exciting, obviously a great opportunity,” Levin said. “Great for the program, it was a neat place to play, fun game and nice to get started on the season.”

With the team making the leap to the NCAA this season, the roster has new components in different places. At the goaltender position, freshmen Ryland Pashovitz and David Jacobson have both joined the team, yet Powers will be sticking with a player he called the most “consistent and dominant player he has coached at ASU in his first two seasons.”

“It’s awesome that he has the confidence in me,” Levin said. “He’s been great throughout my career here, he’s been supportive and helped me be able to play and do what I want to do here. He’s been fantastic.”

It almost feels as though Levin was rewarded for his hard work by getting to play for an NCAA program, a situation that he didn’t think was possible when he signed to play with ASU’s mens club team.

“I came here and I thought I’d play for a competitive team, win a couple championships at the ACHA level and that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “Obviously it’s a great opportunity and I have to embrace it while I’m here.”

There seems to be no distractions, it’s all business for Levin. With the ACL tear behind him, it’s time to get back to laying the groundwork for what many hope to be a successful varsity program.

“The guys are buying in, everyone’s working hard,” he said. “I think we will be competitive night in and night out.

“I think we’re gonna surprise some teams.”

You can contact Colton Dodgson via e-mail or on Twitter @DodgsonColton

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