ASU Arena.1. Feb 21

LONG DISTANCE THOUGHTS 2.5.2021

As I sit here, awaiting another possible three to six inches of snow, cursing the Valley of the Sun sunset pictures coming across my twitter feed (@pfh1964), ASU completed its ONLY home weekend of the season, splitting a pair of games against the USNDT U18 squad. The games were a mixed bag on the ice, losing 6-3 & coming back for a 2-1 win in the second game.

Thursday night the game started out in what was going to be a wild late 80’s Edmonton Oilers type shootout as it was a 3-3 tie after the first period. From there, the speed and skill of what will likely be a decent sized chunk of the 2022 World Junior Championship roster for Team USA kept the pressure on, while USNDT goalie Gibson Homer, came up with big save after big save in what would turn out to be a 6-3 USNDT win. Notre Dame commit Sasha Pastujov (a Florida native) had two goals and an assist. 

While not the night Coach Powers (who was watching from home like the rest of us, due to being quarantined…he was the only member of his household to test negative) was looking for, it was the Oceanside debut for USNDT member & future Sun Devil defenseman Ty Murchison. The California native & alum of the LA Junior Kings program, played a very solid game. He has size, can skate & is not afraid to mix it up. Look for him to play major minutes on the ASU back end next year.This was my thoughts as I watched the two games, and was confirmed by the coach himself, after the Friday night game, when he spoke at the post game media session. 

It was also the Tempe debut of Chicago native Matthew Romer, who also did not look out of place. Although it was harder to get a real read on Romer, without being there. Mostly because of the nature of the stream & the camera angle. In accordance to NCAA rules, Coach Powers was not allowed to comment on Romer, because to this point, unlike Murchison, he has not signed his letter of intent yet.

Friday night, was a completely different game. ASU played a tight checking smothering game with a lot more energy as they came away with a 2-1 win. Freshmen goalie Cole Brady, played his best and best period of the year, stopping 31 shots, including 12 of 13 in the third period. His only blemish was a late third period PPG by the aforementioned Pastujov, which cut the lead to 2-1 ASU. Honestly, these were the kind of nights, I expected (maybe unfairly so from a freshman goalie) more often than not. Hopefully, this game will give his confidence a shot in the arm for the rest of the season.

And while it was the Oceanside debut for this years’ ASU freshman class (as well as the future players), it was likely the finale for some players in this senior class. One of those players is likely to be assistant captain Dominic Garcia. After he scored the third goal of his career, his first since March of 2019, it set off one of the most intense celebrations I have seen in the five years of ASU NCAA hockey, if not the most. After the game, the coach as much said that this is likely his last home game. And it was a true indication of how his teammates feel about him. As an even bigger bonus, it was even nicer because his dad got to be in attendance to see it.

Now that they are healthy & will be 100% by their next games, Valentine’s Day weekend (14th & 15th) at Michigan State…and would seem to have their legs back what will this mean for the final stretch of eight games? No idea.

In theory, an 8-0 finale would put them at 13-13-2, and without a pairwise to use, they could be in play for a tournament bid. But let’s be realistic, 8-0 not likely to happen. Could they go 6-2? Sure. Why not? If they get the kind of goaltending that they got last night (Friday the 5th) and continue to stay out of the penalty box like they have all year, 6-2 is not out of the question.

Finishing 11-15-2, after surviving that second long road trip (a trip that saw them by the end basically with only 11 skaters that could realistically play any minutes) of the season, would be a fabulous achievement. And would set up a lot of players with confidence going into the 21-22 season.

Speaking of the 21-22 season (assuming by September, we have some sort of return to normalcy from the pandemic) …

LOOKIE, LOOKIE, LOOKIE…SHOVELS! Big giant shovels, and bulldozers and dirt moved around and everything….

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It’s not a groundbreaking ceremony but who cares? The picture(s) above are the beginning of the construction of the 5,000 seat multi-purpose (HOCKEY!) arena being built on the northeast corner of the ASU campus. As great as it was to the players to get a couple of home games this year, the start of the construction process of the NAMING RIGHTS SOLD BUT BEING KEPT A SECRET – LEVIN Center/Arena is the biggest thing to happen to ASU hockey, even if it is being started quietly. Those pictures taken by my podcast partner and posted all over the place on the Icetimehockeysw Facebook page, & Instagram (icetmesw) & twitter (@icetimesw or @collegehockeysw), marks the end of players choosing school X over ASU because of the building. Now if a player decides to go to school X it will be for “normal” reasons, not because of having to play at Oceanside. A situation that the coach has acknowledged has happened often enough.

It means all the questions go away. No more, when are you getting a building? ASU isn’t really serious about hockey, look where they play, they can’t be serious, can they?  When will ASU join a conference? Who would want them without a building? You get the idea. Oh, and I would be very surprised if we don’t know by the start of the 21-22 season if we don’t know which league ASU will join.

I don’t, by the way, have any idea which league it will be, only guesses. The only thing that could be bigger is if those two guys who have been seen wearing ASU gear working out, Auston Something & Connor Whatshisname suddenly find they have some eligibility left and head to Tempe for a season or two…

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