(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
NCAA Hockey has a new home.
The Arizona State Sun Devils left Glendale with an 8-1 win over the University of Arizona on Saturday, starting their inaugural season as an NCAA program 1-0.
While Arizona plays in the ACHA, this was a chance to get a look at head coach Greg Powers’ team and how they would play in front of what ended up being 5,385 fans in an NHL arena.
As expected, the Devils made a statement in their first game as an NCAA team.
Surprise of the Night: Robert Levin getting the nod at goalie.
After missing last season’s ACHA national tournament with an ACL injury, Robert Levin was able to start in tonight’s match-up. The injury occurred just over seven months ago, making the early return for the junior goaltender all the more impressive.
Arizona State’s defense held Arizona’s offense to just seven shots on goal, making Levin’s job far easier in front of the goal. While he did give up one goal, the early return was encouraging for this team. If the defensive trend continues, Levin’s return should be seamless.
Levin was replaced after 28 minutes; it was possible he was on a time restriction coming in.
“I’m just happy he’s healthy,” Powers said. “We haven’t been able to have any goalie sessions or intimate work with our goaltenders because of the practice limitations we’ve been under.
“They’ll be a lot sharper starting next week.”
Difference Maker: Joey Raats
Raats played the role of facilitator for the Devils, assisting on three separate goals.
The freshman from Las Vegas was the catalyst of the offensive attack against Arizona. He was involved in most of the chances the Devils had throughout the game.
“We think he’s special,” Powers said. “Joey’s going to be another big piece of our future; he’s going to be a go-to guy on the back end for four years starting immediately.”
With three assists in his first game, Raats is someone to keep an eye on moving forward.
Player of the Game: Jordan Masters
Yet another freshman who made vital contributions throughout the contest, Masters finished his first game as a Sun Devil with two goals and an assist.
“I think it was a good first game as a team,” Masters said. “I think the whole team executed as best s possible tonight, just work on little details for next week. “
Coach Powers went as far to call Masters the team’s best player in tonight’s game.
“He’s a good player, he just knows how to play hockey,” Powers said. “He does everything; he’s physical, he’s really good on the floor check and he’s good on the power play.
“He’s a jack-of-all-trades for us, he’s going to have a big, big, big career here.”
Masters has had his coming out party and ASU hockey fans would be wise to take note. It will be interesting to see if he can keep up his torrid start to the year.
- Connor Schmidt’s first period goal was the first goal scored in the history of Arizona State University NCAA Hockey.
- Five of the eight goals scored in tonight’s game were scored by freshman.
- Coach Greg Powers’ all-time record against Arizona now sits at 40-1.
- Ryan Ostertag sat out with what was called a “groin tweak” by Powers. His absence was described as precautionary.