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ASU hockey preparing for potential run to the NCAA Tournament

No. 13 Sun Devils are 16-9-1 on the season and could be the first independent to make NCAA Tournament since 1992


ASU junior forward Brett Gruber (27) handles the puck in a game versus Michigan State at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

A few days ago, ASU junior goaltender Joey Daccord went to breakfast with a couple of teammates and something unexpected happened — as they ate, some Sun Devil hockey fans approached them.

Those fans started to give praise. During his first few seasons in Tempe, Daccord said this didn’t happen and he and his teammates weren’t recognized in public. With No. 13 ASU (16-9-1) having a historical start to its fourth season as a Division I program, things have changed.

Daccord finds the recognition exciting.

“I just think it is all good stuff for the program,” Daccord said. “It is really cool to get that recognition. In my three years here, this is the biggest buzz we have ever created and that was the goal when we started this whole thing. (The goal) was to bring attention to our program and what we are doing and grow the game of college hockey. It is just really exciting.”

Currently, ASU still has no official home arena and is an independent program as it doesn’t belong in a hockey conference. The team has won 28 games in its first three seasons as a Division I program. Nonetheless, the Sun Devils are in the conversation this season to be the first independent since Alaska Anchorage in 1992 to receive a bid into the NCAA Tournament.

ASU coach Greg Powers said this is a credit to his players and how the program has eliminated excuses and continues to show up and play. However, he said he never really expected the team to grow this quickly.

“It was never the goal, and I could have never imagined it,” Powers said. “We just wanted to be the best ACHA Division I program, and we quickly became that. A lot of club programs have asked, ‘What was the blueprint to make ASU a Division I program?’” 

And there wasn’t one. 

“It was literally doing what we were doing this year," Powers said. "Focusing on what is right in front of us, handling and controlling what we could control, and (if we do that) good things happen.”

With new expectations comes pressure, but Daccord said the team will be ready to embrace it.

“It is something we can feed off of a use for our advantage, and we know the eye balls are on us and the pressure is on, so it is go time,” Daccord said. “We are proud about we have done this season, but there is still a lot of hockey left to be played this season and still another level that we can get to.”

For the Sun Devils, though, the road ahead isn’t easy. It will certainly be a challenge, and Daccord knows ASU has to stay focused game-by-game and can’t get ahead of itself.

ASU plays eight of its final 10 regular season games on the road, including its longest upcoming road swing this season. ASU last played at home against Boston College, a 5-2 win, on Jan. 4, and although it has some bye weeks worked in, the Sun Devils don’t return to Oceanside Ice Arena until its final home series against American International on Feb. 15 and Feb. 16.

With the bye weeks, Powers said there are no real excuses, but he and the staff will continue to manage the players to make sure they are fresh for each series.

Currently in the midst of its 42-day stretch, ASU has upcoming series against Boston University and Rochester Institute of Technology as it continues to fight for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and then ends the regular season in Minnesota

However, ASU didn’t have an ideal start to its road swing as it lost 6-1 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday against No. 17 Cornell. Nonetheless, Powers loves where his team is at, but he realizes the national recognition has put a target on ASU.

“We have got everyone’s attention,” Powers said. “We are legitimate. We are real, and we are not going to be able to sneak up on anyone.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @NATE_HIATT on Twitter.

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