'Heartbroken' ASU hockey recuperating after potential postseason cut short

The Sun Devils went 22-11-3 before having their potential postseason canceled

Less than 24 hours after the NBA decided to suspend its season due to the outbreak of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, the NCAA followed suit by announcing the cancellation of all remaining winter and spring championships in an effort to help prevent the spread of disease.

The premature closing of the postseasons consequently led to the elimination of many programs' hopes of a title chase, including that of ASU's hockey team. 

After finishing the 2019-20 season with a program-high 22 wins and being one of the most offensively gifted squads in the nation, ASU entered its month-long hiatus watching from the sidelines as other teams prepared for their respective conference championships, waiting to see if they would be able to secure an at-large bid on Selection Sunday as the NCAA's only independent team.

However, Selection Sunday would never come, and neither would another game on the Sun Devils' schedule.

"I think just mainly disappointed," freshman defenseman Jack Judson said on his initial reaction to the news. "When you work hard all year; we had a really good season and were sitting in a good spot going into (the tournament)."

ASU, according to College Hockey News' PairWise Probability Matrix, had a 98% chance of receiving an at-large bid to the tournament as of March 2. However, the increased danger posed by the coronavirus forced the NCAA to preemptively cancel the tournament, shutting the door on any prospects that any program had of winning the national championship in Detroit.

"With what we now know about what is going on in the world, the decision to cancel was absolutely the correct one in every way," head coach Greg Powers said. "I think we were all shocked and obviously disappointed. Like anything with time, hopefully that wears off. But now that we are further removed from it, obviously there are bigger things happening than playing hockey right now."

Although he understands the NCAA's choice to cancel the rest of the season was made in good faith, Judson was looking forward to potentially getting a taste of a national tournament appearance in his first year with ASU.

"I think I was just looking forward to the whole experience," he said. "It would’ve obviously been the biggest game of my life and probably everyone on the team’s life. I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of something of that magnitude—especially coming in as a freshman and possibly being able to experience that my first year here, that would’ve been pretty crazy."

The feelings of the unfortunate ending to the 2019-20 campaign resonate even more so with senior captain Brinson Pasichnuk, who concluded the final season of his NCAA career without a final opportunity to compete for a national championship in April.

"I’m heartbroken, to say the least," Pasichnuk said. "It’s never how you want your senior season to end. Being a senior, it’s your last kick at the cat, so you’re going to give every single ounce of effort that you have. When you’re working so hard ... and putting in the work and getting ready for (the tournament) and you hear that news, it sucks."

As this past season becomes more visible in ASU's rearview mirror, Powers will enter a new year yearning for another shot at a national title.

"That group put us on the map in every way and built this program from the ground up," Powers said. "We will play for them next season. We are all heartbroken it ended the way it did for our seniors."

Along with that motivation, the return of several key pieces to the roster, the addition of new talent in the incoming recruiting class and landing transfer forward Sean Dhooghe has made Judson believe that there is more success to be found when next year comes knocking.

"We know we can get there," Judson said. "Just to see our success this year, for the team and for me, we know that we’re capable of getting to the tournament."

Until that opportunity arises, however, Pasichnuk and the rest of his teammates have been faced with a harsh reality that delivers a clear message on what it means to live in a world where nothing is a guarantee.

"This experience especially (has made me realize) to never take a day at the rink for granted," Pasichnuk said. "There are going to be days where you go there and you’re tired and you may not want to get on the ice because you have exams and all that stuff, but I think it’s just not taking it for granted.

"Like the rest of the world right now, it can be taken from you in a second … that’s been the biggest thing that I took; be grateful for every single opportunity you get.”


Reach the reporter at aklatsky@asu.edu and follow @averyklatsky on Twitter. 

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