Reflecting On An Unexpected And Shocking End To The 2019-20 Hockey Season

Empty Hockey Arena

by Paul Hornstein


I was actually halfway done with a different version of this blog post, and finally found a way to sneak in a Doctor Who reference. That however was Monday, when I was going to reference the past, present & future. Doctor Who is a show about traveling in time & space. The world is a much different place then. I was writing all about what I thought had to happen in order for the Sun Devils to make a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. Getting ready to do the next CHSWW podcast. Then reality hit.

Forty-eight hours later, they were cancelling conference tournaments in all of the winter sports…by the next day, not only were the conference tournaments cancelled, all sporting events in not just college, but the professional ranks were either postponed or canceled. College sports at least at the Division one and two levels, have been canceled for the rest of the school year. The ACHA cancelled its championships as well. Emotionally, this sucks. For personal reasons, hockey, specifically ASU hockey, and doing things related to this website, were a “lifeline”. Something to focus on that gave me joy, despite the roller coaster of the wins & losses. I made my schedule around the ASU hockey schedule. Is that crazy? Probably, but it is what it is. Now it’s gone for the season, about two weeks earlier than anyone thought. I am not emotionally ready. Intellectually, I get it, I understand, and it is the right choice.

In the present, it is sad for the athletes that worked all season long for a chance to win a national championship, not just in hockey, but the other winter sports, such as wrestling, gymnastics, basketball, etc. Some of those athletes will never be able to compete at such a high level again and will always have an empty feeling. For example, The Pasichnuk Brothers. Brinson, a puck moving defenseman, likely could have signed a pro contract at the end of the 2018-19 season. He chose to come back to ASU, play one last season with Steen and try to win a national championship. I can’t see, even if somehow the NCAA gave winter sports athletes an extra year, him once again passing up a pro contract. He has already been named one of the top five college free agents this off season. I have no inside knowledge, but I can’t imagine he ends up anywhere but San Jose, unless another team blows them out of the water. Steen might get a contract somewhere, but he is not likely on the same track to the NHL that his brother is. Now they may not have made the tournament, and the point of that example would have been moot…but we will now never know. Count on someone, somewhere, running computer simulations of all of these sports to see who would have “won”. I’m looking at you, my friend @BobblinMavs.

The corona virus pandemic, also denied us the chance to see, meet and/or reconnect with a lot of the players from the past that put ASU hockey on the map. Not just the guys from the past five years, such as Anthony Coston, Dylan Hollman & Robbie Baillargeon, but a bunch of the guys that won that ACHA national championship. Guys like Kale Dolinski, Colin Hekle & more. It would have been great to have them publicly acknowledged one more time or for the first time in front of the NCAA crowd. As I suspect they will be when Oceanside is no longer their regular home. As the exhibition game against the alumni, meant as a tune up for a potential first round game of the NCAAs was also canceled.

The one part of the blog post that didn’t change was the part that was based on ASU’s future. Truth be told, the biggest reason (actually, the only reason) that it couldn’t be changed is, I hadn’t written it yet.

A few weeks ago, ASU announced its next recruiting class. One that would start in the fall. It consisted of four forwards, a defenseman & a goalie. It was ranked fifth in the country by the hockey recruiting site Fifth, and they are still playing in the community rink. I’ll just leave it at that.

That class of six players includes two players that are NHL draft picks and three players with a star rating of 4.25.

The forwards include Ryan O’Reilly (a Red Wings’ pick), Michael Mancinelli, Matthew Kopperud, & Benji Eckerle. Valley native Carson Kosobud is the lone D-man, and New Jersey Devils’ draft pick Cole Brady is the goalie. O’Reilly & Mancinelli were originally committed to Denver & North Dakota respectively.

This should mean that the on-ice future of the program should continue to trend upward. And I believe that next year has the chance to be ASU’s best season to date.

And while we mourn the abrupt end to the 2019-2020 season, we can’t let it go to waste…it was a second straight 20-win season, a school record 22 wins. It was in position for a second straight NCAA bid. No team had four 30-point scorers and the returning team was going to be deeper and better than ever. A few weeks ago, Coach Powers said that this was going to be the best off season in program history. If he’s right, then we will get a chance to wash away the unfortunate end to the 19-20 season.

Stay tuned

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