(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)

For the first time in program history, the Arizona State women’s hockey team can say they are a ranked program. The Devils were ranked 15th in the latest edition of the 2017-18 ACHA Women’s D1 Top-15 Ranking. This comes on the heels of the team learning last week that they have received a bid for the WWCHL playoffs in Fremont, Nebraska.

“I don’t really have words,” head coach Lindsey Ellis said. “To be able to be ranked as a second year program, that’s pretty cool.”

The Sun Devils are winners of three of their last five and hold a record of 8-13-1, an improvement from a 2-15-0 mark in their inaugural season last year. The team’s sixth and seventh wins of this season came against Denver two weekends ago in Tempe. This sweep that propelled them into Ohio this past weekend, where they beat Ohio State for their eighth win and took a program-high 71 shots on goal.

In their sweep against Denver, senior Dannika Borges led the way, collecting four points on the weekend. She scored two goals and had an assist in the first game and scored third goal in the second contest. Senior KC McGinley had three point  with a goal and two assists against the Pioneers and freshman Catherine Jones collected two goals herself and also had an assist on the weekend.

Jones had another big weekend in Ohio, scoring two of the team’s five goals, including their only one against now-No. 5 Miami. She is third on the team in goals with seven.

The senior class, who are also the team’s captains, recorded 10 of ASU’s 16 points against Denver and three of the four women recorded a point while in Ohio.

This group of captains is a big reason why the Devils are now ranked.

Last year, Borges, Galles, McGinley and Taylor England were four of the team’s top five scorers. This year, they are once again. Galles leads ASU in goals with 12. McGinley has a team-leading 13 assists and along with Galles, is in the country’s top-45 in points with 19.

But the seniors are not the only contributing factor to ASU’s ranking.

Goaltender Jordan Nash-Boulden has a save percentage of .923. The sophomore has made 852 saves and played 1199.01 minutes, which rank third and fourth, respectively, in the ACHA.

Nash-Boulden knows that while the Devils do not have a winning record, the votes they have received are well-earned.

“We’re an underdog team to watch out for, rather than someone who is just out there getting votes,” she said.” We’re beating teams, beating teams that are in our conference, which is what matters and going to take charge heading into playoffs.”

The Devils received votes in each of the first six weeks of rankings and most recently the last five, however the hadn’t been placed in the top 15 before this week.

For Borges, receiving votes and in turn making the rankings helps validate what the team is doing, which is important for a young program building a team in a atypical market like Arizona.

“We’re noticed, it’s amazing,” Borges said, “Being second year program with such a small roster and being ranked, not just in our conference, but in the ACHA. Hockey in the desert? We’re out here.”

Nash-Boulden also feels that there is a level of validation to seeing her team’s logo in the ranking graphic for the first time.

“I think it validates that we’ve fought and earned our right to be here with some of these top teams this year,” ASU’s goalie said. “It’s really pretty cool to see all of that pay off.”

As the young program grows, they will continue to check of a list of firsts. In just over a week, the team heads to Fremont, Nebraska for the Western Women’s Collegiate Hockey League playoffs. There, they look for not only their first playoff win, but their first win over a ranked team.  Four other WWCHL teams are ranked: Lindenwood-Bellville at No. 4, Colorado at No. 6, Minnesota at No. 8 and Midland at No. 13.

For Nash-Boulden, being ranked shortly before the team heads into the playoffs is timing that will only be of benefit.

“It gives the team a nice little morale boost going in,” she said. “People are starting to take us seriously and maybe that’ll help push our play forward ourselves.”

Ellis also notes that the boost of being ranked before going to Nebraska will help.

“It gives the girls a mental boost, just knowing that they are ranked and that other coaches around the country are recognizing them as well,” Ellis said. “I think that’s really important going into playoffs.”

The WWCHL playoffs begin Feb. 23 and ASU will learn their game times and opponents next week.

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