Forwards score the goals and goalies make the saves.
It’s easy to overlook the skaters that man the blue line, but where would No. 1 ASU hockey and its 26-1-0 record be without its depth of its defensive talent?
And where would the team be without Drew Newmeyer and Brett Blomgren?
The defensive pair, Newmeyer the freshman and Blomgren the sophomore, came out for the interview at the same time, and when they were told the interview was for the top defensive pair on the team, they laughed, shook hands and answered the questions together.
They seemed like brothers, which is exactly how coach Greg Powers said they are.
“They’re really comfortable playing together,” Powers said. “They both have a very good calming effect in the dressing room, on the bench and most importantly on the ice.”
They haven’t even been together for long. Newmeyer, a Scottsdale native, is in his first year as a Sun Devil, having last played with the Indiana Ice of the USHL. He came to ASU to be closer to home and stepped right into a pairing with Blomgren.
Blomgren played on the team last year, but his ice time came as a lower pairing. As a freshman, he watched last year’s seniors take the big minutes.
The duo has been together since the first day of training back in September, and it’s been a seamless transition for the both of them.
“I think we think the game the same way; that’s why it’s so easy,” Blomgren said. “We don’t have to talk too much on the ice. I know where he’s going to be, he knows where I’m going to be, so it makes it simple.”
As defensemen, scoring isn’t part of the game as much as it is for forwards. Newmeyer has nine points on the season, tied for 17th on the team and Blomgren has eight, tied for 19th.
Growing up, everyone wants to be the one to score, so both players have different reasons for playing defense.
“I think I played defense when I was younger, because you get to play a lot more,” Newmeyer said. “Especially as a young kid, there’s less defensemen, so there’s more ice time, and I always kind of liked being in the back and seeing everything, and I like the way the game looks form the defensive side of things.”
Blomgren was more straightforward.
“I just wasn’t good enough to be a forward so they put me on ‘D,’” he said.
Not that the lack of scoring has bothered Powers. In no uncertain terms, he made it clear that Newmeyer and Blomgren do their jobs, and do them well.
“As a unit, they’re our top pair,” Powers said. “They’re a pair that we can put out there at the end of a game and know they’re going to do what they have to do to not get scored on.”
Interestingly, Powers said that individually, they are not the team’s best defensemen. He said they don’t take better shots or skate better than other players, but he loves how they play collectively, which is crucial for a defensive pairing.
“They play together as a pair better than anybody we have in our own zone,” he said.
Blomgren’s reputation last year was as a fighter: He was willing to take the fighting major and possible suspension if he felt a teammate was wronged. He came from junior hockey, where fighting was more accepted. A fight in the ACHA is an automatic one-game suspension.
“I definitely embrace the role of sticking up for my teammates,” he said. “Definitely it’s always been a part of my game.”
The team graduated three senior defensemen last season — Brian Parson, Ryan Clark and Darcy Charrois — all of whom played big roles on the team as the top defensemen on the roster.
Now that title of “top pair” belongs to Newmeyer and Blomgren.
Blomgren played behind those seniors last year and credits them with his development.
“It’s been a smooth transition; I learned a lot from the seniors last year,” Blomgren said.
The main job of defensemen is to cut down the number of shots faced by the goalie. ASU has two of the top goalies in the ACHA in senior Joe D’Elia and freshman Robert Levin. Freshman Lucas Felbel has also gained rave reviews from Powers in practice.
D’Elia said it makes his job a lot easier knowing Newmeyer and Blomgren are in front of him.
“I just have to worry about the first shot. If there’s a rebound in front, they’ll usually clear it,” D’Elia said. “(Blomgren), from last year to this year, has just matured so much. (Newmeyer) is just so smart and so heady. This is easy for him and you can tell.”
As the pair take care of their goalie, so too does the goalie take care of them.
Newmeyer said that having the goaltending talent that ASU has behind him eases the pressure off his own game.
“It makes making a mistake a lot less scary,” he said. “It’s still not good to make mistakes, but it’s a little nicer if you do make a mistake to know that your goalie, nine times out of 10, is going to take care of you for it.”
Mistakes aren’t really part of either of their games, at least not in the eyes of their coach.
“Neither one of them ever really make mistakes,” Powers said. “I can count on one hand how many times each of those guys have made a mistake this year, and I can’t do that with any other player on our roster.”
Both players are expected to play a big role on the team going forward. As a freshman, Newmeyer has three more years of eligibility after this season and Blomgren, a sophomore, has two.
The six defensemen who typically dress to play are, for the most part, young players. There’s Newmeyer and Blomgren, then sophomore assistant captain Jordan Young, senior Brett Prechel and freshmen Alex Temby and Jarrod Levos. Only Prechel is graduating in the next two seasons.
“We’re going to be good for a while,” Blomgren said.
And that starts with ASU’s top pair.
“There’s no reason they can’t be a pair for three years,” Powers said. “I know that’ll be music to their ears.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @J15Emerson