ASU hockey's Demetrios Koumontzis fights COVID-19, injuries in height of NCAA career

The junior forward has scored nine points throughout the 16 games he has played this season

ASU hockey junior forward Demetrios Koumontzis has returned to familiar fashion.

Like nearly every other NCAA athlete last season, Koumontzis had a poor ending to his team's schedule due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation of the 2019-20 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament, however, was just one roadblock Koumontzis faced in his sophomore year.

Koumontzis began the season on a hot start, with seven points through the team's first ten games of the 2019-20 season. However, an upper-body injury suffered later in the year brought a halt to his production, and reduced his playing time to just 25 of the team's total 36 games.

"Last year was just a tough slump overall," Koumontzis said. "The start of the year I started off strong ... and then one of our home games in the beginning of the year I tore a muscle in my oblique area." 

The injury, combined with COVID-19 cancellations, ended his season.

"It's a nine-week injury and then COVID-19 hit after that so I didn't get to play again, and then coming into this season, it was making sure I didn't injure that part of my body again," Koumontzis said. "I think it was just after a tough season, getting into that, it was tough to come back overall."

The downtrend from his sophomore season is a dip below an impressive freshman season in which he recorded 20 points in 35 games, finishing second on the team in assists with 16.

Regardless of the oddities that come with a COVID-19 affected season, Koumontzis has shown that the ramifications brought by injury — whether that be in the past or present — aren't going to slow him down.

"On a personal standpoint, I definitely feel a little more confident in my game," he said. "I think this season has made it a little hard just with the travel and everything. There are no excuses there, but the bigger picture is the team's success."

In terms of team success, Koumontzis' linemates have been both the benefactors and beneficiaries of playing with him this season. Freshman forward Matthew Kopperud and junior forward Jordan Sandhu spent time with Koumontzis early on in the season and believe line chemistry has contributed to a significant amount of offensive success.

"He's so easy to play with," Sandhu said. "He knows how to play the game really well and the speed he brings to the game just opens up so much ... it's so much fun playing with him at both ends of the ice; he's a great player."

ASU junior forward Demetrios Koumontzis (23) chases the puck during a game against the U.S. National Under-18 Ice Hockey Team on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe. ASU won 2-1.

Kopperud's team-leading 18 points, Koumontzis' nine and Sandhu's six compose of nearly a quarter of the team's point production through 20 games this season (excluding exhibition contests).

"I thought (Koumontzis) was playing the best hockey of his college career prior to having to stay home and miss those four games," head coach Greg Powers said. "He was arguably our most effective player on that first trip."

Their 17 of 54 total goals are responsible for nearly a third of the team's goal-scoring, despite accounting for just 16.8% of the team's total shots on goal.

"You can tell how hard he worked in the summer," Sandhu said of Koumontzis. "(He has) really proved that he's one of the best players on our team and has earned everything he's got."

Similar to last season, though, Koumontzis will not play in 100% of the team's games this year; a minor lower-body injury and testing positive for COVID-19 early in the calendar year, which kept him out of the lineup for four games, has not deterred his motivation.

"You can see how much adversity he's gone through and how much he's (stayed strong) mentally and kept fighting to get better and better," Sandhu said. "It really shows the character he has; it's an honor to be one of his teammates and watch him become a better player and person every day."

With one assist in the four non-exhibition games since returning from COVID-19 — and considering the fact that he's already outpaced his scoring numbers from last season in nine fewer games — Koumontzis and the rest of his team still have eight more games left in the 2020-21 season to continue to produce better numbers to end the season on a good note.

"We're probably not going to get to where we want to be this year," Koumontzis said of the team's standing. "You have to look at (the next eight games) as a clean slate; it's an eight-game season from here on out and how we approach these last games are really going to show what kind of team we are."

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