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ASU hockey, 'hard, heavy and dangerous,' poised for huge season

Head Coach Greg Powers enters the campaign Saturday with his deepest team yet, looking for a run at the Frozen Four

ASU graduate student forward Sean Dhooghe (9) takes the faceoff during ASU’s 4-3 defeat to Alaska Fairbanks at Oceanside Ice Arena on Feb. 5, 2022.

With the arrival of fall, the ice in Tempe is frozen solid and ready to welcome college hockey back to the desert as ASU is set to drop the puck on the 2022-23 season Saturday.

The Sun Devils missed out on Frozen Four hockey last season, but with a group of quality transfers, a returning group of leaders and solid depth, the Sun Devils could make some serious noise this season. 

Sophomore forward Josh Doan will wear the "C" for ASU this season, inheriting captain duties with the departures of Johnny Walker and Jacob Wilson. Senior defenseman Jacob Semik and graduate student forward Demetrios Koumontzis will take on the roles of assistant captains for the Sun Devils, both donning the "A" alongside Doan.

Coach Greg Powers enters the season with arguably his deepest team yet. With such a talented squad, Powers said the quality of his team's depth will impact their team identity.

"It's just consistently preaching to the guys what our identity is gonna be," Powers said. "We want to be a skilled, dangerous team, but we want to be hard to play against first. It's always been hard and heavy, that's been our mantra when we've had a lot of success here. Now it's hard, heavy and dangerous. We can't dismiss the base of what's gonna make us successful. It's just good, hard, heavy, simple hockey. You wear teams down and let your skill take over and that's what we intend to do."

While Powers remained tight-lipped as to how ASU will line up Saturday night, his sophomore captain offered a glimpse into how the Sun Devils' lines might look, including two new faces to Tempe. 

"So far I've been with Robert Mastrosimone and Silly (Lukas Sillinger)," Doan said. "I think at the end of the day those two are great players and they're both super smart hockey players as well."

Transfer senior forward Mastrosimone and junior forward Sillinger look to be key parts of the Sun Devils goal scoring output this season, along with Doan and junior forward Matthew Kopperud, who combined for 77 points for Arizona State last season.

Sillinger, a transfer from Bemidji State, put up some impressive numbers with the Beavers in his sophomore stint, tallying 17 goals and 21 assists. Mastrosimone tallied 11 goals and 14 assists at Boston University during his junior year. Both were career highs for the forward. 

Goalie competition in Tempe

The goalie situation in Tempe looks to have some competition as the Sun Devils enter the season. Sophomore goaltender TJ Semptimphelter joins the Sun Devils from Northeastern, where he played a total of eight games last season, most notably posting the top save percentage in the Beanpot tournament with a .972. 

Senior goaltender Ben Kraws returns this season following his junior season for ASU where he posted a .907 save percentage along with a goals against average of 2.97. Freshman goalie Gibson Homer also joins the Sun Devils, having played seasons with the U.S. National U17 and U18 teams and with the USHL's Chicago Steel last season. 

"I know who's starting, but you'll find out on Saturday," Powers said. 

Powers also said the key differences between all three of his men is between the pipes. 

"They're all different goalies," Powers said. "TJ's really athletic and succinct in everything he does. Ben, he's a big, really hard-working, kind of workhorse of a goalie, and Gibby's just this raw, incredibly huge talent that's going to be really, really good for us."

A look down the line

The Sun Devils' schedule looks to be quite challenging. Three of the four teams in the Frozen Four last season are on the Sun Devils' slate this season, including back-to-back series against Minnesota and Denver in late November and early December. 

"Tough schedule, it's by design. You go and you can get some wins against those guys, it's the gift that keeps on giving," Powers said. "It's why we do it, we're certainly starting out not dodging anybody." 

A notable date for ASU fans to circle on their calendar is October 29, when the Sun Devils will travel to Las Vegas to take on North Dakota at T-Mobile Arena. 

"It's a stage we haven't been on yet as a program," Powers said. "It's gonna be 17 to 18,000 people in the building, all eyes on that game, both teams are gonna have really cool jerseys and it's going to be a unique night. It's going to be really our first Frozen Four-ish setting." 

ASU enters the season unranked, but one of ASU's assistant captains said if the team lets their play do the talking, the recognition will come. 

"You never want to see your team unranked, but that's just something to work towards," Koumontzis said. "Just gotta focus on game one, and if we take care of business up in Minnesota, I think we'll be rewarded."

The Sun Devils' season starts this weekend as they travel to Minnesota to take on a tough Minnesota Duluth team that has been to four of the last five Frozen Fours, winning back-to-back national titles in 2018 and 2019. 

The series kicks off with the first game on Saturday at 4 p.m. MST, and the second game on Sunday at 2 p.m MST. 

Edited by Kathryn Field, Logan Stanley and Piper Hansen.

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