(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
Arizona State hockey begins its season on October 3 against the University of Arizona at Gila River Arena, home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, in Glendale.
Sun Devil head coach Greg Powers will be faced with the tough challenge of guiding the team from the club ACHA level to the NCAA. The team will have to make a multitude of adjustments in order to be able to compete with the elite of Division I.
“The speed will be the biggest adjustment,” Powers said. “The time and space the guys who were with us last year are used to having won’t be there. We are really focusing on the limited time we have with them on the ice right now on live game situations and scrimmages.”
"You have to prepare the same way if you are building a foundation, it doesn't matter who you are playing against." -Powers
— Jacob Janower (@JanowerJacob) September 21, 2015
Playing some home games at Gila River Arena will be a big change from the home rink of Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe. The Sun Devils and Coyotes reached a deal earlier this year for ASU to play part-time in Glendale. ASU will also host a tournament in the beginning of 2016 and play the 18U U.S. National Team, in addition to their opening matchup against the Wildcats.
“The Coyotes have been amazing to us, to offer their home to us. Our guys are really excited to play in an NHL arena,” he said.
After the Sun Devils’ first home game, they will head to Alaska for a couple of games against Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage. The trip up north will also be a change to the traditional schedule experienced in the past by ASU. Despite the strenuous schedule, Powers is not worried about how his team will handle the travel.
“We were used to as a club team flying seven to eight times a year,” he said. “With the added resources that we get at the NCAA level, we travel first class and the guys are really taken care of, getting on a plane and going somewhere ten times a year isn’t an excuse and we won’t use it as one.”
The Devils will have a lot of important veterans and young players to help with their transition to the NCAA, but none may be more important than center Liam Norris.
"Everything we've done, I believe, can be used at this level." -Powers
— Tyler Paley (@TylerPaley) September 21, 2015
The graduate student, who led the team with 50 points last season and was the WCHL MVP, was granted an extra year of eligibility in April.
“Liam is a big cog for us,” Powers said. “25-year-old centers at the NCAA level don’t just grow on trees, so his maturity and his passion for the program will help us this season. Liam and I have been here the longest of anyone, so I am glad he decided to come back for this first year in the NCAA for us.”
Norris will be a key piece for Powers, who will have many pieces to fill into the puzzle for success. While the process may take a few years, the longtime Sun Devil head coach is the long-term success of ASU hockey.
“What we’re focused on right now is becoming the most successful hockey startup program ever,” Powers said.
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