(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
Just 2 miles north from Disneyland, The Rinks – formerly known as the Disney Ice Center – is where the Anaheim Ducks annually go to shake the dust off their skates before the first puck drops in the regular season. The arena that whips NHL All Stars Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf back into mid-season form is also where long time Ducks fan and Sun Devil forward Zack Holstrom learned the basic fundamentals of ice-skating.
“Hockey was getting big in Southern California around the time me and my brother were growing up,” Holstrom said. “My dad was the one who would really push me. When I was thirteen I wanted to quit. Peewees were rolling around and everyone just got huge all of a sudden and I wasn’t too big. He said ‘Hey, you [can] quit but what does that do?”
Now donning the maroon and gold at Oceanside Arena, Holstrom anchors the fourth line between fellow rookies Patrick Yudez and Chris Burkemper. Coach Greg Powers has consistently stated how he believes ASU’s 3rd and 4th lines could be the 1st or 2nd lines on any other team in the ACHA. The performance of the all freshman 4th line justifies that statement; they’ve racked up a total of 20 points so far this season.
“Burkemper and Yudez are easy players to play with,” Holstrom said. “They’re really big, really physical…they make it easy for me when it comes to winning battles. We all play pretty gritty and I think that’s why it works. We want to win not by out-finessing the other team but by out-muscling them, out-battling them and just wanting it more.”
The Yorba Linda, California native currently leads the freshman recruits with 9 points in the form of 2 goals and 7 assists. His “put the puck between the pipes” mindset sprouted from watching Mighty Ducks winger Paul Kariya battle against concussions, yet still become an offensive firepower and face of the franchise.
“[Kariya] was our boy for awhile,” Holstrom said. “He’s part of my favorite hockey incident ever in 2003 playoffs against the Devils. [New Jersey’s] Scott Stevens just killed him across the blue line but he came back a period later and scored. I think that’s just an unbelievable story right there itself.”
The die-hard Ducks fan had a Kariya-like experience against the archival University of Arizona Wildcats – but in reverse order. After putting the puck past Wildcat goalie Dylan Hojnacki in the third period, Arizona winger David Rizk came from behind and sent Holstrom head first into the boards by the Sun Devil bench. Rizk was ejected from the game and Holstrom was forced to sit out in game 2 due to concussion symptoms.
“I was really mad about what happened, I think that’s why I didn’t realize I had a concussion since I had so much adrenaline,” Holstrom said. “Then coach said ‘Hey Holsy, if you calm down I’ll put you on the power play,’ so I refocused myself.”
Just like the many Mighty Ducks fans who anxiously awaited the return of Kariya from a concussion, Sun Devil fans hope that Holstrom will be back out on the ice soon.
“The best thing I can do is try to recover and focus on my next game as soon as I can. With the team we have, from what I’ve seen and heard, we really do have a competitive team…we have a really good chance at winning nationals and anything less than that, I think, we’d be selling ourselves short,” Holstrom said.