ASU hockey is on pace to be the first independent team since 1992 to earn a NCAA Tournament bid in just its third full Division I season as a program.
What if I told you Arizona State was a hockey school now?
A lot of people still weren’t even aware that ASU had a NCAA Division-I team before this year. But after the Sun Devils’ most successful season yet in their young history, they are making too much noise to go unheard.
“We’ve kind of, up until this point, been an urban legend-type of program where, ‘Oh my gosh, they have a division one program at Arizona State, but they don’t have an arena, they don’t have a conference. Man, one day they might be pretty good’,” ASU head coach Greg Powers mimicked.
That day, and season, has come. ASU is currently tied for the most wins in NCAA D-I with a 16-7-1 record with the possibility of making the postseason for the first time ever.
“And now, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention,” Powers said. “We’re legitimate, we’re real, and we’re not going to be able to sneak up on anybody.”
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The Sun Devils are coming off of a successful month of December where they went 4-1-1. And on the first weekend of 2019, ASU swept Boston College and moved up to No. 13 in the latest USCHO poll on the following Monday.
“It’s been one of those things where we started winning at the beginning of the year and the train just kept rolling and rolling,” ASU goaltender Joey Daccord said. “The snowball kept getting bigger, and it’s headed in a really good direction.”
Daccord registered his NCAA-leading sixth shutout of the season after ASU’s 2-0 win over BC on Jan. 5. The junior netminder has been considered the best player on the Sun Devils by his head coach and teammates several times over the past few months.
But what has this ASU team firing all cylinders is its humility. Daccord noted after his last shutout that it’s more of a team stat than anything, and he’s definitely not the first in the Sun Devil locker room to credit his teammates over himself.
Each player has bought into the culture that Powers has established. The coach made it clear that every excuse has been eliminated by his team even though it may not have the best facility or the most experience.
Veteran leadership has been crucial as well, especially from the athletes who have been in a piece of the program since the very beginning.
“To think we could make the tournament in our last year as seniors would be incredible,” ASU forward Anthony Croston said alongside line-mate, Dylan Hollman. “We gotta take it a game at a time, try to focus on each shift, and not look too far ahead.”
The Sun Devils are currently at No. 10 in the all-important PairWise rankings. These ranks are the defining factor for who makes the NCAA Tournament besides winning a conference championship.
However, ASU is the only independent team in the country and the last time an independent received a bid was Alaska Anchorage way back in 1992. But if the tournament started today, the Sun Devils would be a No. 3 seed, according to NCAA’s bracketology.
Next, the team will continue the final stretch of the regular season with a tough road test at No. 17 Cornell. The Sun Devils’ last four out of five series are away from home.
“We haven’t changed focus at all from the start of the year,” Powers said. “It’s been the countdown clock focusing on our nest opponent, counting down until the exact second when we play ’em, and it’s gonna stay that way through ten games.”
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.