The ASU club hockey team is headed to the ACHA National Tournament in Chicago with a chance to change school history.
The Sun Devils (32-7-1) enter with the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. They play the winner of No. 15 Navy and No. 18 Rutgers with the luxury of scouting their opponent before playing them.
If the Sun Devils take care of Navy or Rutgers, they would then meet the winner of No. 7 Illinois and defending national champion No. 10 Delaware. ASU did not play any of the two teams in the regular season.
The tournament is then reseeded for the semifinals.
Being ranked No. 2 in the nation comes with a lot of expectations, both at home and across the country.
Last season, ASU was ranked No. 4 going into the tournament, also with a first-round bye. They were then eliminated by No. 13 Oakland. Oakland went on to play Delaware in the championship game.
Keeping last year in mind, ASU coach Greg Powers wants his team focused despite facing a much weaker team for its first game.
“It’s the national tournament,” Powers said. “You can’t overlook anybody. There’s no excuses at all to overlook anybody.”
Neither Navy nor Rutgers will be an easy matchup.
Eighteen teams made the tournament, meaning that Rutgers was the last team in. The mindset of a team like Rutgers is they have nothing to lose and teams like that can be very dangerous.
Navy finished with a record of 28-4-1, the second best winning percentage in the ACHA.
ASU senior defenseman Brian Parson has been to the national tournament three times in his career. Despite the lower rankings, he, like his coach, refuses to overlook the first-round matchup.
“Those are the games that can get nitty and gritty,” Parson said. “Anyone can really win on any given day. We just have to make sure we’re doing the little things right like we’re playing the No. 1 team.”
The injury bug has been a problem for ASU all season.
Junior captain Colin Hekle, junior forward Kale Dolinski, freshman defenseman Jordan Young and senior defenseman Darcy Charrois all missed time last weekend against UA.
All are hopeful to return for nationals.
“Once we get those guys back, we’ll definitely be rolling,” Parson said.
ASU is one of the odds-on favorites to play in the national title game, especially when the Sun Devils are healthy.
Powers feels the same way and is confident in his team as they head to Chicago.
“If we’re clicking and we’re going and we’re healthy, (then) I feel good about our chances against anybody,” Powers said.
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