The Sun Devils' hockey season came to a close after last weekend. After a long year of injuries and the upcoming absence of some notable players, the question becomes: what is next for this team?
The team swept Long Island University in its last series of the season, but their overall record ended as 18-21-0, preventing the team from making the postseason and capping a year full of challenges. Playing on the road was a pivotal struggle for the team, holding a 4-11-0 record for away games.
Injuries have been the most prominent obstacle for the team. In one of the last series against Alaska Fairbanks, the team played without senior forward Robert Mastrosimone and sophomore defenseman Ty Murchison, two vital players for the Sun Devils. Not having enough bodies on the ice, especially those contributing points, brought the team down in this series.
"Two huge losses when you are already extremely short as it is, and then you lose two draft picks, a big horse in the back. It is what it is," head coach Greg Powers said after the Fairbanks game. "It's been 20 games of grueling adversity, short-handed, and this is the result."
The team is still trying to get back to full strength. Murchison didn't make another game appearance until the LIU series.
Inconsistency is another struggle for this team. Most of the games this season were played in pairs back-to-back – a grueling task to compete with total effort two nights in a row. The team played in 18 two-game series this year, and out of those, it won both games in only four of those series. The others consisted of either one win or losses both nights.
The Sun Devils will also have to find new talent for next season as many strong players say goodbye to the team. Sophomore forward Josh Doan is not to be returning for his junior year, opting to play pro instead.
The Arizona Coyotes drafted Doan in 2021 as a second-round pick, but no official contract has been released yet. He will join the AHL team, the Tucson Roadrunners, to continue working on his game.
"It's a short season for college, so when you start slow, you don't really get the chance to carry on and catch up, whereas if we were playing another 30 games this year, I feel like I'd push the envelope to kind of catch some people," Doan said.
Doan's absence will leave a big hole in the team. He played in all 39 games this season, led the team in goals with 16 and was second in assists (22), falling just below Mastrosimone. He also took on a leadership role as captain, so the boys must look to someone new to guide the team in this position.
This season also has a graduating class with a lot of talent departing. Mastrosimone led the team with 42 points, scoring 11 goals and 31 assists. Graduate student forward and alternate captain Demetrios Koumontzis is leaving the team after five years, tallying 66 points during his time with the Sun Devils. Koumontzis was a versatile player with the ability to quickly switch from forward to defense.
While the season didn't end with the desired result, Koumontzis remains proud.
"It's not always about winning, although you always want to win, but it's building and continuing to create a culture that creates winning," Koumontzis said. "I think, for the most part, we did that, it's hard, and I like to sit down and say that we accomplished that for sure."
Graduate student forward Chris Grando is also leaving the team and going pro. Grando signed a contract Monday with an ECHL team, the Jacksonville Icemen, who are affiliated with the New York Rangers. Grando brought a lot of experience to the Sun Devils, playing in 166 games between ASU and his time at Boston College.
The team has some big spots to fill for next season and will need some of the younger guys to step up. Freshman forward Ryan Alexander played in 35 games this season and scored 11 goals, and his talent is projected to increase with time and experience.
"He is already a really good player. He's going to be a great college player," Powers said. "He's just barely scratching the surface of what he's going to be, and he did a great job."
Junior forwards Dylan Jackson and Ty Jackson also generate a lot of offense for the team. The brothers combined scored 18 goals and 26 assists this year and will continue to be critical players for the Sun Devils' success in the future.
The team has some work to do in the offseason as it aims to return strong for the 2023-24 season.
"We need to have more depth. We need to be harder to play against. It's that simple. We were a little bit flawed in that sense this year, and we have a lot of skill," Powers said. "But you will see a Sun Devil hockey team that is an absolute bitch to play against next year."
Edited by Walker Smith, Reagan Priest and Caera Learmonth.