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ASU men's club hockey hopes to build chemistry on the road to season success

Student players are dedicating their leisure and bodies to play for the Sun Devil club hockey team in pursuit of an ACHA national championship

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The ASU mens club hockey team fundraising in front of Raising Canes in Tempe on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. 

The ASU men's club hockey team's season is already underway with a 12-1 win over NAU. The Division I team will host the University of Utah this weekend at the Oceanside Ice Arena.  

ASU's men's and women's club ice hockey programs grant students the chance to compete and play hockey for a team that competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which has a tier system like the NCAA.

"We get the chance to play teams all over the country and also have the chance at playing for a national title each year," said Joseph Plishka, a junior and former club hockey goalie.

Plishka doesn't play for the team anymore, but helps with social media and broadcasts for games.

All club players are students, and it's about as close to traditional hockey as it gets. 

"Three periods, full contact," Plishka said. "It's a grind of a season. The only difference is that we are not professionals. Otherwise, we play hockey through and through."

The men's team has a lot of new players, so it faces an uphill battle to achieve its championship aspirations.

Hockey is a physically and mentally demanding sport, and the college workload can quickly become equally overwhelming. Escapes are vital. The team often engages in team events and activities to boost morale and chemistry, as well as raise funds. They recently held a fundraiser at Raising Cane's.

Division III team captain junior Garner Sullivan recalled one of his fondest memories with the team when they returned to Arizona following a road game. The group made a pit stop at Dave and Buster's, and the crew ate, played games and bonded.

These gatherings make these players' experiences unique and unforgettable. Sullivan said "chemistry is already starting to grow."

Having a head coach who is "not too much older" than the players helps in that regard.

Austin Cline, 28, coach of ASU's men's club hockey teams, brings experience as well as a youthful outlook. Cline has been coaching for six years, including the last four at ASU.

Cline hastily ascended from an assistant coach of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in Canada to earn the coaching position for the Sun Devils' Division III club hockey team last fall.

This past spring, he was promoted to hockey director and head coach of the club Division I team.

"A lot of the players see him as a friend and not a coach, and this makes it easier for the players to come to him with problems or advice," Sullivan said. 

In his own words, he relates to the players and, like most of the team, has played hockey since he was a child. Cline said he can be a "player's coach," given the sports world has evolved past the old-school coaching style that Cline describes as "brutal."

"I've gone through what they've gone through, so helping guide them through being a full-time student, playing hockey full time," Cline said. "Some of these guys work 40 hours a week. Trying to guide them through this process is probably my favorite part." 

These student-athletes' determination has driven their chase to an ACHA national championship.

"It's been a wild ride so far," Cline said. "We just grind, and I love it. This is what I want to do. I have a really good thing going here, so it's exciting." 

Tryouts occur every August and the Sun Devil program encourages anyone to come out and participate. Players must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours and obtain a 2.0 GPA.

"Try it and see if it's something that you enjoy, if it's something that you're interested in," Cline said. "I think it's the greatest sport on earth." 

Edited by Kathryn Field, Logan Stanley and Piper Hansen. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @AlfredS_III on Twitter.

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