The ASU men’s hockey team has been throwing together all the right ingredients into a 6-2, record-setting start to its season thus far.
The Sun Devils are second in the nation in goals, their power play was 5-10 in their last game, and the team is allowing less than two goals a game.
So, what has been the secret recipe for success?
“It’s banana bread for the boys,” said freshman forward PJ Marrocco with a smile.
This banana bread isn't just a saying or a slogan either. Marrocco, who hails from north of the border in Edmonton and is one of the eight talented freshmen on this year’s Sun Devil roster, has a passion for cooking and baking off the ice.
On the ice, he is tied for fifth on the team in points, including four points in two games last weekend against Nebraska Omaha. But away from the rink, Marrocco has been dishing out more than just assists.
“I love cooking. I am Italian, and it’s just in my roots. Good food has always been there,” Marrocco said. “Living on your own, I knew it was going to be a big thing to learn how to cook, so before I came down here (to Arizona), that’s what I did all summer.”
Marrocco said he picked up the tasteful hobby from his grandmother when she would cook Sunday dinners for his family back in Canada. As for Marrocco’s favorite dish, the freshman said he loves to cook pasta and lasagna with a good homemade sauce.
Marrocco also noted he has a sweet tooth, and baking is something that has extended into Oceanside Arena. Within the confines of the ASU locker room is an area for players to divulge into some potassium and avoid cramps by picking up bananas.
When those bananas begin to wear down, Marrocco is the first in-line to pick them up, as he often takes the fruit and turns it into homemade banana bread.
With a 6-2 record and a rampant start to the season, Marrocco emphasized that it must be the delicacy providing the good luck charm for ASU.
However, Marrocco isn’t the only young player from Western Canada who is cooking something up for the program.
Freshman forward Jordan Sandhu has been another promising young player for the Sun Devils, and over the weekend, both of their young skill was on full display.
In Saturday’s game on the power play and with a puck lodged in the corner boards, Sandhu won a battle and tossed the puck in the slot for Marrocco, who proceeded to fire a laser that became one of five power play goals for ASU last Saturday night, helping to notch a goal for the second unit of the power play.
"The second unit has gotten better and better," ASU head coach Greg Powers said. "There's four freshmen on it and they struggled the first couple of weekends. At Huntsville, they ended up having some pretty good success on it, and it got them some momentum."
Similar to Marrocco, Sandhu grew up in Western Canada in Richmond, British Columbia and played junior hockey for the Vernon Vipers.
Sandhu's brother currently plays college hockey back in his home province at the University of British Columbia, and he is part of the reason the Sun Devil freshman has continued his hockey journey.
"He is probably one of the biggest role models in my life," Sandhu said. "He is one of, if not the reason I am still playing today. My decision to come play college hockey was all through his experiences ... We never got to play on the same team or against each other, but there was always broom sticks or road hockey. We'd always have some tough competition."
Sandhu's brother, Tyler, is in his second year with UBC. Although they might be playing in different countries, the brothers both wear the number 19 on their respective jerseys, which is a trait that Sandhu said started with his brother wearing the numbers of other famous 19's like Joe Sakic and Markus Naslund.
"He chose it first," Sandhu said. "I kind of went along with it, and I always wanted to be like him, so 19 was kind of a no-brainer to choose."
Similar to his relationship with his older brother, Sandhu has a bond with some new siblings in Tempe. The future of the budding freshmen class along with Marrocco looks bright. As two freshmen hailing from Canada, both players come from the same country with different backgrounds, but their play is establishing the tone of what is to come.
"All eight freshmen, we are all really tight," Sandhu said. "We kind of came in as a family already, a group of brothers."