Team chemistry carries ASU hockey team into season after summer abroad

The Sun Devils' summer of bonding was highlighted by a Fu Xing Cup title in China

After a summer of bonding, the ASU hockey team is back in Tempe with high spirits and expectations to continue elevating the program.

After an underwhelming 2017-18 season under head coach Greg Powers, the Sun Devils broke out last season going 21-13-1 on their way to securing the program’s first NCAA tournament bid.

While last year was a step forward for the program, the mood around the arena was evident: their trip to the tournament wasn’t a fluke.

“We had a great year. We think that we surprised pretty much everybody but ourselves. We want to continue to push the rock forward,” Powers said. "We made the tournament last year, but we want to get further this year.” 

The team carried last season's momentum into the summer as it traveled to China to square off against teams from both the VHL (Supreme Hockey League) and the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League). It's not often that college hockey teams are able to travel abroad and see in-game action over the summer.

Powers was able to take a look at his team in game action to try out different players and combinations, which he said will be beneficial for the start of the season. 

“Figuring out line combinations, special team’s combinations, PK pairs, all that stuff is a huge luxury,” Powers said. “It allows us to focus on development and make sure these guys are really sharp going into our first game."

The trip to China was a success for the team overall, as it went a combined 4-1 against talented international competition on its way to the Fu Xing Cup title. While the Sun Devils fared well in China, the camaraderie the team created off the ice was its most important development.

“That trip was so cool, definitely one we are not going to forget," senior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk said. "Off the ice was really special. You’re with each other 24/7 for 12 days straight. I don’t think anything else can happen besides become a family.”

Goaltender Max Prawdzik, a graduate transfer from Boston University, said he could feel a unique type of connection after spending the summer with the team. 

“It’s just so fun getting to know the guys,” Prawdzik said. “I feel really close with the team right now, even though I really haven’t been here for a super long period of time.”

Pasichnuk and others echoed the sentiment of how tight-knit the team is.

“I guarantee you we are the closest team in college hockey,” Pasichnuk said.

Powers and his team have said all the right things heading into the season, but with the season opener against Mercyhurst on Oct. 5 quickly approaching, it's time to put the Sun Devils' team chemistry to the test.

“We have a good enough team," he said. "We have enough talent here now. The culture is so good with our player leadership group that if we continue to do that, I believe we will absolutely have a better year than we did last year.”

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