On September 20, the Arizona State Sun Devil hockey team will open their 2013 season at home against the San Diego State Aztecs. The Devils are coming off of a successful 2012 campaign that saw them ranked #1 in the American Collegiate Hockey Associate (ACHA) during the season but fall to Lindenwood University in the semifinals of the national tournament.
Forward Kale Dolinski, who led the Devils last season in both goals (with 34) and points (with 59) says the biggest thing the team has worked on to get over that national title hump is depth.
“We had the team to win a national title [last season], I just feel like we were lacking in guys. Our captain was down and we had guys that were at less than 50 percent. It’s no excuse, but you could tell that if you want to go all the way, you need more consistency, a line or two here and there,” Dolinski said.
As the team leader in goals last season, Dolinksi knows he still needs to improve individually as well. After some reflection, Dolinski decided he could improve in his leadership on and off the ice, especially with the new recruiting class coming in for this season.
“I haven’t been the most vocal player,” Dolinski said. “I try to pride myself on my work ethic on the ice, but with this recruiting class coming in there are some excellent, excellent players. I just think they need somebody that can show them the way.”
Dolinski went on to add that the new players have all of the physical skills and potential, they just need somebody to “grab the reins and show them what this team is about.” He had high praise for the younger players coming in and said the most difficult challenge is going to be finding places for the all them to play.
“The hardest part will probably be the chemistry, trying to find the right line combinations,” Dolinski said.
Starting goalie Joseph D’elia agreed with his teammate (and roommate) that utilizing the new players will be key to the team’s success this year.
“With these new guys coming in, we’re just going to try and build that chemistry. The experience that we had last year was good enough to make it to the final four. Hopefully the new guys will help carry the team for the rest of the year,” D’elia said.
D’elia himself says he wants to improve on his consistency. He had 741 saves on 813 shots last season for a save percentage over 90 percent.
“Last year was definitely a weird year for me,” D’elia commented. “It was the first year that I started in the league, and I think I had a pretty good year. I learned a lot of things along the way, and I had a lot of time over the summer to reflect upon them.”
Both D’elia and Dolinski indicated there isn’t a team on their schedule this season that should be taken lightly, including the Arizona Wildcats who the Devils have beaten 32 times in a row.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this season, you can’t take any team lightly, especially the University of Arizona. They always come out hard against us; they’ll always find that extra bit of energy,” Dolinski said.
Going out undefeated against an in-state rival would be something Dolinski considers an incredible accomplishment.
“It’s huge, and it’s funny because when I first got here I didn’t really understand [the rivalry],” Dolinski said.
The list of goals set by ASU is not headlined with the streak against U of A, however; it’s topped by the hopes of a national title.
Dolinski said, “There is no other goal. Yeah, you could say we’d like to go undefeated; I’d like to help my team win personal awards. But all of that would mean nothing. When you play in the final four at nationals and you lose, there is nothing worse.”
Losing in the semi-finals last season was made more difficult for Dolinski after Minot State, the school that he previously played for before transferring to ASU, won the national title.
“I have no regrets leaving, but there’s definitely a bitter taste in my mouth because the guys that coach [Greg] Powers has brought in here are exceptional people and I’d love nothing more than to hoist a trophy with them,” Dolinksi said.
The Sun Devils will begin that quest to hoist a trophy at the Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe later this month against the Aztecs. They will also be playing the defending champion, Minot State, in Tempe on November 7.