The sweep of the Pioneers served as a landmark weekend for the program, and the team has only continued to grow from that point.
Nearly a year later, ASU will host the same opponent at the same rink with yet another landmark memory on the horizon.
This Saturday, ASU will host Denver on the program’s first-ever senior night. Last year’s team had no seniors, but this year’s team features four veteran players, and all four will be honored on Saturday evening.
Going into the series, Denver is 3-10 and has lost its last two games. ASU looks to snap a three-game losing streak.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting in general just because they are our first graduating class because last year we didn’t graduate anybody,” ASU head coach Lindsey Ellis said. “It’s just going to be a really exciting night … they have just built such a community around this team.”
The seniors, forwards Amber Galles, Dannika Borges and Taylor England (England is listed as a junior but has one semester left) along with defenseman KC McGinley, have put a stamp on a team that has looked to establish an identity as a young program.
All four players are captains with Galles and McGinley wearing the “C’s” while Borges and England have donned the “A’s” as alternate captains for the maroon and gold.
Since the program dropped the puck for the first time last fall, those four players have accounted for about 65 percent of the team’s total points.
This year, the four players lead the Sun Devils in points, and McGinley leads the entire team, tallying five goals and 11 assists from the blue line.
As for Galles, she recorded the first hat trick in program history last year against Denver, and she has only continued her rampant scoring touch this year, leading the team with eight goals.
Regardless of all the success the seniors have had on the ice, it is the little things off the ice that has meant the most to the players.
From pregame routines to road trips to their pregame playlist in the locker room, the players have forged a special bond with all of their teammates.
“If it weren’t for hockey, I wouldn’t have met anybody on this team,” Borges said. “It’s just all of the friendships, and I want them to continue going on past this season.”
For each player, the role and the journey to ASU has been unique in and of itself.
England and Borges both transferred from community colleges prior to enrolling at ASU, when the hockey team just began its development in its first year.
As for McGinley, she was the first recruit in program history after transferring from the University of Massachusetts Boston. The senior blue-liner is originally from Scottsdale.
“This was the craziest opportunity to end on the best note ever,” said McGinley on coming to play at ASU. “This has been by far my favorite year of hockey … I love this team and I have raved about this team for the past few years.”
Together, each player has excelled in a different role, and it is the unique skill sets and attitudes of each player that has brought out the best in a team with a small roster size.
As for each player’s favorite memory over the past two years, Galles recalled last year’s Denver series while England noted this year’s cross-town showdown with GCU.
“It’s just the connections that I have made with everybody on the team,” England said. “These are friendships that you are going to have for a lifetime.”
Nevertheless, the four captains will leave the keys to the program in good hands. Next year’s recruiting class includes nine new additions, and it appears that the team will have a full roster with three goaltenders and the ability to roll 3-to-4 lines.
“I want to see where it (the program) goes,” said Galles of next year’s team. “I’d like to come peep my head in every now and then, and see what it’s all about, and see how the girls are doing.”
Regardless of where the program may ascend in the coming years, the contributions that the four senior leaders have made over the first two seasons have been enormous for ASU women's hockey.
With just two more weeks of regular season games, the Sun Devils and their senior class will look to cement their legacy in their waning games in the maroon and gold jerseys.
“As a unit, they have contributed just so much ... You can’t replace them,” Ellis said. “You can do as much as you can to revamp a program, but they will forever be able to say that they were the start of this.”
ASU will begin its two-game series at Oceanside Ice Arena against Denver this Friday, Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. MST, and senior night will be on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. MST.