ASU hockey looks to use its depth to spark a bounce-back season

After playing with the Big Ten in 2020-21, the Sun Devils will look to improve upon their disappointing season

In the 2020-21 season, ASU hockey played alongside the Big Ten conference, playing five different nationally ranked teams over the course of the season. However, going into the 2021-22 season, ASU will look to improve on its disappointing 7-16-3 record from last year. 

ASU head coach Greg Powers is ready to use the team's overall experience from last season to propel it back into the NCAA Tournament conversation.

"We're ready to focus on a new season," Powers said. "It didn't kill us, it made us stronger and we're here today and we can't wait to get going."

The 2021-22 season will bring the Sun Devils back to Oceanside Ice Arena for their first collegiate games since the 2019-20 season.

"Getting the 20 home games (is) great," Powers said. "We're good here, we're confident here, and it's a recipe for success in our eyes."

The team also has some extra motivation to continue their control of home ice as it will move over to its new $115 million multi-purpose arena in fall or winter 2022. 

"For right now, it obviously feels normal until you go back to campus and drive by (the new arena) and you're like, 'holy crap, it's coming,'" Powers said. "We owe a lot to Oceanside and we'll miss this place. We've been able to build a program out of this place and we're grateful to the people that have allowed us to do that and supported us here along the way."

Coming into this season, there is an immense amount of excitement surrounding freshman forward Josh Doan, who was selected 37th overall by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, which is the highest in the Sun Devil hockey program's history.

Although Doan had the option to try and skate right into his NHL career, he decided to come to ASU in order to sharpen his skills and surround himself with a veteran team.

"I'm looking forward to seeing where I'm at compared to the college level," Doan said. "On the team spectrum, I think just coming out here and showing that our team is arguably the deepest team in college hockey in terms of skill, size and speed, so I think that we have a lot to prove this year."

Graduate student defenseman Jacob Wilson was named captain for the second straight year, along with graduate student forward Johnny Walker. The alternate captains for the upcoming season are senior forward Jordan Sandhu and graduate student forward Willie Knierim.

With Wilson and Walker returning and being co-captains for Sun Devil hockey this season, Wilson wants to make sure that he sends a positive message to the younger guys on the team.

"Be true to yourself, play your game," Wilson said. "You're not entitled to anything, so you have to work for it and earn it every single day, and that goes for us as well."

A couple of other names to look out for as the beginning of the season approaches are sophomore goaltender Cole Brady and sophomore forward Matthew Kopperud.

Going into this season, Brady is the clear-cut starter for the Sun Devils, and Powers is looking forward to seeing Brady between the pipes this season.

"Cole is coming into the season as our guy, and there's no secret about that," Powers said. "Cole's healthy, he's in a great frame of mind, and we're excited for him to have a big year."

Powers also made sure to acknowledge the incredible first season that Kopperud had. He led the team with 13 goals and 19 points last season.

"He had 13 goals in arguably the toughest setting you could drum up for any freshman at the collegiate level," Powers said. "As long as he continues to stay hungry and doesn't approach this season like it's going to be easy for him, he'll surpass that. He's a gifted kid."

The combination of 20 home games, a diverse mix of talent up and down the roster and lighter competition on the schedule, ASU hockey is looking to make it back to its 2019-20 form. 

"These are guys that are difference makers from where they're going from. So when you tack those guys on with the experience we have returning, there's just no excuses," Powers said. "That's why we have high expectations of ourselves, and we're excited to go prove it."

ASU hockey will open up its 2021-22 season at home against University of Massachusetts Lowell with back-to-back games on Oct. 2-3 in Tempe. 

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