Jordan Masters was dismissed from ASU hockey weeks ago, team says

One player’s removal from the program came well before anyone knew about it, plus more updates on other top stories around the team.

When news broke Thursday that ASU hockey had dismissed sophomore forward Jordan Masters, last year’s team-leading scorer, many of the details were kept quiet.

But at a practice on Tuesday, head coach Greg Powers confirmed that the team parted ways with Masters before a three-game road trip to Massachusetts, which began with a win over American International College on Dec. 13.

“It was just business as usual (after he left),” Powers said when asked of his team’s reaction to the dismissal. “That happened before our trip out east and we went 3-0. So, you be the judge of that.”

Masters had already missed the first nine games of this season for an undisclosed reason before returning to play eight games and score two goals with two assists.

“We wish him all the best. It is what it is,” Powers continued. “I think that’s only the third player that we’ve had leave (since joining NCAA). There’s going to be attrition when you’re building a program.

“But we wish him all the best and I’m sure he’ll find a home somewhere.”

Sophomore forward Anthony Croston said it was hard to lose a teammate.

“It’s tough, especially a top guy like him,” Croston said. “It’s tough to get used to. But I think we came together as a team and realized he’s gone, we can’t really do much about it now. We’ve got to do what we can with who we have.”

Former alternate captain Ryan Belonger not playing

Senior forward Ryan Belonger was announced as an alternate captain before the season and played in ASU’s first three games. Since then, he’s been scratched from every lineup.

With just three games played, 0 points and a shot on goal this season, Powers said Belonger could eventually return.

“I think he’ll probably work his way back in,” Powers said. “He was dealing with some personal stuff the week we went to Northeastern (in mid-October). We were working through that with him. He’s back now, being a great teammate, a great leader.”

Belonger’s current role with the team wasn’t immediately clear, but Powers did say it was important for him to help the younger players get experience for next season and beyond. Powers also commended the senior on his acceptance of the circumstances.

“He’s been just incredible and understanding of the situation and I know he’ll continue to be.”

Croston responding well to new role

Eventually taking Belonger’s place as an alternate captain was Croston, who has three goals and seven assists in his last seven games.

Five of those assists came on Friday against Brown University

“The bounces were just going our way, I guess,” Croston said of that performance against Brown. “My line especially, we had five goals. I became part of five of them. It was a great night for our line, even though we didn’t win.”

Powers said he was looking forward to having Croston on the team for two more seasons.

“He’s certainly been our most consistent forward, and you could start to argue he’s been our best forward,” he said. “He generates a lot of scoring opportunities, and I’m proud of him. How he’s developed as a player and a leader has been really impressive.”

Croston said his promotion may have had something to do with the uptick in production.

“I think it brought out my leadership qualities a little bit more,” he said. “Back in juniors, I was captain my last year and I think that was my best year. I think it just gives me incentive to do my best and show other guys the right way to do things.”

Coming up: A brutal stretch of the schedule

After returning from a road trip to Prescott, Arizona to host the second-annual Desert Hockey Classic, ASU hockey will now face No. 3 Denver in a two-game series in Colorado. The following weekend, on Jan. 13-14, the Sun Devils will be on the road for a third straight weekend to face No. 11 Ohio State.

As if three straight weekends on the road isn’t challenging enough, eight of ASU’s next ten games are against ranked opponents.

Powers said the logistics of scheduling games can get difficult for teams without a conference, like ASU.

“It’s one of those deals where, as a new program and as an independent, the back half of the season when you’re not in a conference is pretty tough,” Powers said. “You’re just going to have to play whoever will play you.”

Related: Life on the road with ASU hockey

He also added that the travel schedule for these upcoming road trips could be different.

“We’re going to change up how we travel a little bit. We’re going to go out on a Thursday for the trip to Denver because it’s an easy trip. Even the trip into Columbus is direct, right into Columbus, so we’re going to go Thursday, not on Wednesday.

“We’re going to try to spend more time here at home, practicing here, sleeping in our own beds, and we’ll see if it works.”


Reach the reporter at matthew.layman@asu.edu or follow @Mattjlayman on Twitter.

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