Being a former Sun Devil goalie in the late 90s, ASU hockey coach Greg Powers knows a great goalie when he sees one.
So when given a chance to bring one of the nation's top goaltenders on their team, the Sun Devils pounced.
This time last season, then-freshman goaltender TJ Semptimphelter sat behind Devon Levi at Northeastern, who went on to win the 2022 Mike Richter award, the highest honor for an NCAA Division 1 goaltender.
Semptimphelter only played eight games for Northeastern in his freshman season, starting seven. He only gave up more than two goals in those eight games twice. In the Beanpot, one of college hockey’s most challenging tournaments, Semptimphelter posted a .972 save percentage.
"He's got this demeanor about him that is so calm," Powers said. "He approaches every day like a hockey player, not a goalie. That’s what separates the great goalies from the good goalies. They want to be hockey players. They don’t want to be the weirdo goalie that does their own little thing. This kid is immersed in the team culture."
Growing up in New Jersey, Semptimphelter lived in an area of the country surrounded by hockey. Lucky enough for him, the perfect mentor came into his life.
Former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher's son was on the same team as Semptimphelter, while Boucher was the team's coach. ASU's netminder described just how big it was having a coach of that caliber.
"He was my coach growing up," Semptimphelter said. "As a young goalie, it was an unbelievable time just showing up to the rink and seeing one of your favorite goalies as your coach and getting instruction from him. Even though I was at such a young age, he taught me a lot about being a goalie and life in general."
Once Semptimphelter finalized his move to ASU, it was time to work with the coaching staff and trainers to prepare for his first season in Tempe.
“I was fortunate that I was able to get here in the summer and begin working out with our strength coach Liane Blyn very early," Semptimphelter said. "So that was huge, just getting stronger and preparing for the season."
Semptimphelter spent time on the ice working with the coaching staff to prepare for his role as the starting netminder.
"You can't beat working with (volunteer assistant coach) Eddie Läck, who has a great hockey mind and knows a ton about the position and the sport," Semptimphelter said. "He knows what it takes to get to the next level and succeed at all levels, so it's been great to work with him."
The offseason work has seemingly paid off for the sophomore goaltender. Through his first eight games, he boasts the most total saves in the nation with 278 and the highest save percentage of all goalies who've played all eight games with a .933. He also holds two shutouts this season. Junior defenseman Tim Lovell talked about how big the new face between the pipes has been.
"He’s such a good kid,” Lovell said. “It’s great to see when we’re losing games at times, and he’s just bailing us out, and we come back and win or just like a game tonight where we’re winning, and he never gives up. It’s outstanding to see, and it makes us get going on the bench for sure. He brings a lot of energy to the table.”
The Sun Devils opened Mullett Arena with back-to-back series against Colgate and Colorado College the past two weekends where Semptimphelter experienced hockey culture in the valley for the first time.
"Those first two series were extremely exciting," Semptimphelter said. "Guys had told me stories about last year in Oceanside and the fan base here, so I had a little preview of what to expect going into the games. It was just phenomenal, and the energy the fans brought to the games all four nights was unbelievable. The 942 crew is awesome. I think they're even calling themselves the 'Mullett Maniacs,' which is awesome."
Throughout the first homestand, but most notably during the two-game set against Colorado College, Semptimphelter took some hard hits from Tiger skaters, drawing three running the goalie penalties in the series.
"They ran him a lot, and we didn't appreciate it," Powers said. "I don't think I’ve ever had a goalie take contact throughout two games more than this kid this weekend. I don't think (Colorado College coach Kris Mayotte) was sending his guys after him."
The Sun Devils now set their sights toward Las Vegas, where they will take on No. 6 North Dakota Fighting Hawks at T-Mobile Arena at 7:07 p.m. local time. The matchup will be one of ASU’s most formidable of the season.
As for Semptimphelter, with all the excitement that comes with the stage of Sin City, he’s keeping things focused on the ice.
"I'm excited to play in Vegas," Semptimphelter said. "I know the guys are excited, but it’s important to focus on the task at hand, and that’s beating North Dakota on Saturday."
Edited by Walker Smith, David Rodish and Kristen Apolline Castillo.