At 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, there were already three packed, rowdy rows in the student section at Mullett Arena. The crowd was riled up, dancing and talking with their friends before the ASU men's hockey matchup between the Sun Devils and the St. Thomas Tommies.
The puck drop wasn't until 7 p.m. and the game went into overtime, the student section still fully present and loud, when in just 37 seconds, senior forward Robert Mastrosimone scored, taking the Sun Devils to a 4-3 win and weekend sweep against the Tommies. In some of the larger sports, even in close contests held at home, the student section typically thins out by the start of the second half.
Saturday's game was a fast back-and-forth contest, ASU down by one point after the first period when the score was 2-1, Tommies. The Sun Devils were still down 3-2, Tommies, at the end of the second period and it wasn't until almost the end of the third when they tied the game.
Despite attending a school placed right in the middle of a desert, ASU students still bring high energy and school spirit to hockey games. The Sun Devil student section at Mullett Arena was sold out for the first 13 home games while school was in session.
But even with the full support of students, the team has been inconsistent on the scoreboard throughout the season with a 13-16 record. The Sun Devils won both games against St. Thomas Friday and Saturday, ending a four-game losing streak.
"I go to ASU hockey games because it reminds me of a cross between the professional games of hockey I grew up on and the high school hockey games that I played in," said Jayson Mullin, a freshman studying sports journalism from New Jersey where hockey is generally more popular.
Tyler Livingston, a freshman biological sciences student from Las Vegas, agrees.
"Out West, you don't see a lot of hockey, especially great hockey like ASU D1, so I think coming to the games is kind of awesome," Livingston said. "They're beating good teams out East and North, so I think it's awesome.”
Throughout the season, ASU has sprinkled in some wins against teams from the East Coast, including Colgate, New Hampshire and Boston College.
READ MORE: ASU hockey enters toughest stretch of the season, starting with No. 2 Minnesota
The crowd was incredibly eccentric for the overtime win against Minnesota on Nov. 26, and sophomore goaltender TJ Semptimphelter could feel it on the ice.
"The fans have been awesome this whole year, and it's really exciting to be a player in that environment. You can tell that hockey's picking up like wildfire out here, and the fans are electric," Semptimphelter said after the win. "Teams aren't going to want to play out here because of how loud they are."
There are other aspects of hockey games fans go to see too, including the quick, smooth action and hard hits along the boards. In the third period of Saturday's game against St. Thomas, the crowd started chanting, "hit somebody," to hopefully get more action going.
Some students said they have little to no prior knowledge of the sport and its rules, but attend games because their friends encourage them to make an event out of it.
Everyone has a different reason for attending hockey games, but ASU students still come together. A huge proponent of packed fan sections is 942 Crew, a student-run organization that promotes ASU sports and urges student attendance. Hockey has become a dominant sport the crew promotes.
"The amount of people and noise the student section brings shows the hockey team and the whole stadium the heart of ASU," said Evan Nguyen, a senior supply chain management major and 942 Crew member.
Mullin also noted how unifying hockey is.
"The environment here is so much fun," Mullin said. "Everybody gets into it, everybody has a ton of fun, and it's people that go to school with us, so we're all a part of something here."
Edited by Kathryn Field, Jasmine Kabiri and Piper Hansen.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @kat_m67 on Twitter.
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