Small Successes Define ASU's Transition
by Tanner Stechnij/Special to CHN
Arizona State recently completed a 12-day road trip that saw it competing against numerous teams from the East Coast. The Sun Devils competed against New Hampshire on Saturday, Nov. 12, Boston College on Sunday, Nov. 13 and Penn State on Nov. 18 and 19.
The road trip marked a first for the hockey team in a year of firsts. In 2014, Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson announced the team would be transitioning to NCAA Division I from an American Collegiate Hockey Association club program.
Last year, ASU competed against both NCAA and ACHA teams whereas this year, it's playing NCAA games only. This was a vital step for the organization, according to assistant coach Alex Hicks.
“We are the only team in the area to have a Division I program,” Hicks said. “I don’t know who would be a barometer for us in Arizona or the southwest. We have had some growing pains but [they are] ones that we expected to have with the starting a new program from scratch. We had to build and get a 25-to-30-person roster and build a culture. Everything comes with its own headaches and hiccups.”
Hicks and Forward Dylan Hollman both took pride in the team’s overtime win against New Hampshire. This was their second win of 13 games in the season so far. However, the trip was about more than what happened on the field.
“Any time you get into overtime and have that sudden death scoring and get to win is exciting,” Hollman said. “Other than that, it was nice to spend 10 days seeing your teammates everyday. They treated us really well on the road so we had some nice dinners and stuff like that. It was nice getting to spend quality time with all of my teammates.”
The next night, ASU lost to Boston College, 3-1, and the following weekend they lost to Penn State, 7-4 and 8-0.
Hicks doesn’t take the losses as a sign to worry, but is celebrating the win as an accomplishment for a young, untested team. He says that the trip was a worthwhile learning experience and has helped boost the team’s morale.
“When you are trying to win games against really good teams on the road, you have to be prepared to play a full 60 minutes,” Hicks said. “We are learning as we go and we feel we are in a great spot. We are in a better spot right now, a year and a half into this, than we ever dreamed of.”
Hicks says that the next step for the team is to continue and recruit better and better players. The school will also need its own new arena one day, and there is some renewed hope recently that it can team up with the Arizona Coyotes to make that happen.
Hicks and the other coaches and players aren’t the only ones to be happy with the team’s growth. Hockey fan Emma Preston, an ASU senior studying communication, has been following the team since she started studying at ASU.
“These past few years it has been amazing to see them go from a club team to Division I,” Preston said. “All of the hard work they have put in is really paying off and I can’t wait for their future.”
The team saw more success against Rensselaer once it got back home. The games in Tempe on Nov 25-26 were a split, 5-3 win and 2-0 loss, respectively. This makes ASU’s record 3-12 for the season.