(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
In front of a crowd of 5,385 people, Arizona State beat the Arizona Wildcats 8-1 in its first game as an NCAA hockey team.
Gila River Arena, home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, hosted the game between the two rivals. It is the first of four ASU hockey games that will be played in Glendale as a part of an agreement between the Coyotes and Sun Devils.
ASU knew that the atmosphere at the arena was going to be electric, but they admit to underestimating just how many people would be there.
“We walked out for warmups and there was already a ton of people in the crowd,” ASU junior defenseman Connor Schmidt said. “When we came back for the National Anthem we saw all the people and got chills down our spine.”
The Sun Devils came out of the gates hot, scoring the first two goals of the game. Schmidt, who had not scored an NCAA goal since 2012 when he played at Ferris State, scored the first goal of the new ASU era.
“After I scored, the boys were all asking me about it,” he said. “It really hasn’t set in yet, but I’m starting to think about it and it’s an honor and something I will tell my grandkids.”
Schmidt’s goal was just the beginning for ASU, as Jordan Young put the Sun Devils up by a pair. The defenseman is in his senior season and was recently named a captain, along with graduate students Liam Norris and Garrett Peterson.
It was only fitting that the Sun Devils received a big contribution from a freshman in their first game as an NCAA team. Jordan Masters, who was called the game MVP by Powers afterwards, netted two goals and an assist in the win.
“Jordy was our best player tonight,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said. “He just knows how to play hockey and he does everything right. He’s good on the forecheck and he’s good at killing penalties, he’s a jack of all trades. He will have a really big career here.”
Masters had played a few games in the past at an NHL arena, Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, so his nerves were calm for the most part.
“I think it was an awesome experience,” Masters said. “Especially with it being our first NCAA game, I think the team came together as fast as possible and we did all the little things well today.”
Another freshman who rose up on the big stage was Joey Raats, who came through with three assists on the last three ASU goals. He was tied with Masters for the Sun Devils lead in points with three.
“We think he (Raats) is really special,” Powers said. “He is coming in with a lot of confidence and will be a big part of our future.”
The strong play from the freshmen will aid the veterans as they venture into NCAA play. ASU will head to Alaska next weekend for a pair of games against Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks.