ASU hockey defenseman notes two-way growth with expanded role in 2020-21

Jacob Semik leads the team in blocked shots and has been an integral factor in the team's defensive development

Sophomore defenseman Jacob Semik, along with the rest of his team, was itching for the 2020-21 season to start when he came back to campus in the fall. While the beginning of the season was delayed and came in a new format, the team was excited to simply have a schedule of games to play at all.

Semik's season, compared to his freshman campaign a year ago, came with more opportunity. The departure of both Brinson Pasichnuk and Joshua Maniscalco to the professional level left two vacancies at the top of ASU's blue line.

"When you lose an NHL-caliber player, you can't replace him right away," Semik said. "I think me and Jack (Judson) have done a good job covering for (Maniscalco), but you can't replace a guy of that talent. Especially, as a sophomore, (I) just try to do anything you can to step up and help the team win. We had to step up our game quicker than we would've if (Maniscalco) was here."

While he believes former players cannot be directly replaced, Semik has helped lead the charge of ASU defensemen in making up for the losses in personnel over the last offseason.

"He does a lot of really good things," head coach Greg Powers said. "He is a cerebral player, he defends well, he moves the puck well. He's got to get stronger; him and (Judson), that's their next evolution from underclassmen to upperclassmen next year, they have to get stronger. 

Semik alone leads all defensemen in points with 10, is tied for the team lead in assists with nine and is the team's leading shot-blocker with 50, 12 more than anyone else on the team.

"The biggest difference is my defensive play and my physicality," Semik said. "I think playing for Powers, you kind of have to play both ways of the puck and I was always aware of how to do it, but with the coaches this year, they're really demanding."

Now-sophomore defenseman Jack Judson (22) listens to head coach Greg Powers during practice on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.

Semik's improvement this season has shown promise in how he is able to contribute on both ends of the ice to better develop into a more resolute two-way player.

"(Semik) is a great player," senior forward Johnny Walker said. "(He is) smooth and deceptive and moves the puck really well, and he's gotten better every year. He's done a great job and he's worked hard and earned everything he's gotten."

The two-way game, Semik notes, is spearheaded by his vision, which he believes is his biggest asset as an offensive defenseman.

"Just being able to make plays and use my vision," Semik said of his strengths this season. "Especially playing teams this good, you're challenged way more than a season when you have some teams in there from different conferences. I have focused my game on being more complete because if it is not complete, you get exposed."

While the 2020-21 season is drawing to a close and just four games remain in the Sun Devils' regular season, Semik understands that the year provided lots of experiences for growth for the future.

"Besides the wins and losses, it's such a great opportunity for us to get an eye-opener of the type of teams you have to play every weekend, and that only helps us," Semik said. "We're really confident in our team regardless of the record, and playing these teams every weekend helps you so much (in) developing. 

"The biggest thing I've taken away is how much it helps us develop especially as a sophomore; you'd never get a chance to be in the opportunities that I've been in and playing such good teams; it's such a great development year."

Reach the reporter at and follow @averyklatsky on Twitter. 

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