It's no secret the Sun Devil hockey squad is as loaded as ever. This weekend's series against Alaska Anchorage however, proved their depth is stronger than some originally thought.
Due to a handful of injuries to various key starters, a few guys who have struggled to find ice time finally got a chance to get in and contribute.
Coach Greg Powers has presided over ASU hockey from its humble beginnings as a small club team to the varsity team that can recruit high-level talent and win against the blue bloods of college hockey.
Now in his 15th year, Powers has his most complete and deepest team. It shows up in games like against Alaska Anchorage when Powers put his full trust in the youth of the team.
Powers expressed strong confidence in his fringe guys, which allowed him to rest starters like freshman forward Charlie Schoen, sophomore defenseman Jackson Niedermayer and graduate student forward Demetrios Koumontzis.
On defense, Hickey and Ness have split time at the final defender spot in the lineup over the Sun Devils' five-game win streak. As for Dangos, he played in the first three games of the season in the Sun Devil defense. However, he went on to miss the next six games due to injury before returning to the lineup against Alaska Anchorage. The freshman tallied his first point of the season in his return, assisting junior forward Ty Jackson for the first goal Friday night.
"He was really good, he made a hell of a play on the entry on that first goal. He's a dynamic kid back there," Powers said in a postgame press conference. "He made some mistakes, which you knew he would, he played three games and sat out six, so it was his first game back and he made an impact in a positive way."
Eckerle made the most of his opportunity against Alaska Anchorage. Having not played since the second game against Colgate, the junior forward found himself filling in for Koumontzis at the fourth-line center position Saturday. Powers had nothing but positives to say about Eckerle's return.
"When you have a kid like Benji who was chomping at the bit to get in, you know he's gonna give you the energy that your team needs and he's 100%, you can rest a kid like (Koumontzis) to make sure he's 100% next weekend," Powers said.
The depth of the roster is a confidence booster for both Powers and the players. Eckerle is confident everyone on the team is capable of playing at a high level.
"Whoever's going to be on the ice is going to be able to take care of business and do their job," Eckerle said.
Stibbe got an unfortunate break to begin his college career Saturday, getting a five-minute major and game misconduct on his first shift. Despite the unlucky debut, Powers is confident in Stibbe's ability to be a major player for the Sun Devils.
"It was unfortunate man, you got to feel bad for that kid. I mean it's the first shift of his college career and then he gets a five-minute penalty," Powers said. "So we're gonna give him some jabs and have some fun with him, but he'll get another shot. He's a great kid, he's been working really hard for that opportunity."
The addition of junior forward Lukas Sillinger has no doubt deepened the Sun Devil roster. The Bemidji State transfer scored his first goal at Mullett Arena on Saturday night.
"It means a lot, having four lines that can all do the same thing, it kind of pushes teams back on their heels a bit, and it keeps guys fresh," Sillinger said. "There's not anyone playing 30, 35 minutes a night, so it's nice to roll four and roll six in the back end and especially having TJ (Semptimphelter) back there helps us out."
The Sun Devils look to extend their win streak to six and seven as they travel to Potsdam, New York to take on Clarkson this Friday and Saturday with both puck drops set for 5 p.m. MST.
Edited by Kathryn Field, David Rodish and Piper Hansen.