It’s not often a freshman makes such an impact on a team that people are already calling him the next face of the team.
But Ryan Ostertag is no ordinary freshman.
The freshman forward his team calls “O-Tag” has been tremendous for the No. 1 ASU hockey team this season. In 26 games, he has scored 20 goals and dished out 12 assists. His goal total is tied for second on the team, and his 32 points are the second-most among freshmen.
It’s not like Ostertag started the season slowly — eight points in his first 10 games — but from Nov. 25 onward, he has caught fire, recording 24 points in 16 games. He scored the game-tying and game-winning goal in that game, and even jumped in the net to stop a puck that would have tied the game for Iowa State.
He’s been so impressive, coach Greg Powers gave a ringing endorsement for his future.
“I think he has the opportunity to be the new face of ASU hockey,” Powers said. “He’s that good. I’ve felt it from day one, and he’s shown it. When he goes, he’s virtually unstoppable.”
That unstoppability was put on display Dec. 7 in Tucson against UA. Ostertag scored two goals and added four assists. Having a six-point (or better) game on his résumé is something that only Ostertag, senior forward Kale Dolinski and freshman forward Eric Rivard can say he has.
Ostertag especially didn’t look very stoppable Feb. 6 at Colorado when he scored his first-career hat trick.
“My confidence is through the roof right now, probably a little higher than it should be,” Ostertag said. “Maybe it took me a little bit of time to settle in from the start of the year, but now I feel so comfortable playing with whoever I’m playing with.”
Ostertag spent most of the season playing on the same line as senior captain Colin Hekle, until Powers decided to shake things up on the Colorado road trip in early February. Now Ostertag skates with Dolinski and junior forward Liam Norris.
“I can’t even begin to describe what he can bring to the table,” Hekle said. “The kid’s a calm presence in the locker room; on the ice, he’s fast, he’s skilled (and) he’s smart. His shot’s incredible.”
With Hekle, the captain, and two of three assistant captains, Dolinski and senior forward Danny McAuliffe, leaving after the season, Hekle said it would not surprise him to see Ostertag have a letter on his chest next season.
“He’s shown himself, since getting past the rookie stages, that he is a leader,” Hekle said. “He could definitely have a letter.”
With the lettermen and five other seniors graduating, it’s not too much of a stretch to predict that Ostertag will be among the top scorers on the team next season. He said he hasn’t thought about that, and he wants to leave the seniors with one thing before they go.
“I think the first task at hand is winning a ring for those guys,” Ostertag said. “All I want to do right now is a win a national championship for them, because that’s exactly what they deserve.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J15Emerson