ASU goaltender TJ Semptimphelter has been incredible for the Sun Devils this season. Now, the emergence of another high-level netminder in sophomore Gibson Homer makes for an elite pair of defenders in front of the net.
Head coach Greg Powers foretold that the 6-foot-5-inch keeper would see time this season after Semptimphelter started in 36 games last season. On Saturday, Homer made his collegiate debut on the road against Miami Ohio. The game concluded in a 1-1 tie.
"(It was) unbelievable," Homer said. "It goes down as a tie but felt like a win to me, and to the locker room, it felt like a win."
Homer found out he would be starting after the 4-5 loss to the RedHawks the night before, with Semptimphelter on the ice after starting the first five games of the season. Powers knows that Semptimphelter wants to start every game but trusts the young Sun Devil to make an impact.
"I expected exactly what I got when I told (Semptimphelter) he wasn’t going to go on Saturday," Powers said. "He wanted to go … but we have a really good goalie in (Homer) ... nobody was more excited for the game that he had than TJ."
Through the first five games, Semptimphelter has notched 128 saves with a .928 save percentage. He has allowed 10 goals and has one shutout this season. Last year, he had over 1,000 saves and a .913 save percentage on his way to being nominated for the Hobey Baker Award and the Mike Richter Award. However, Powers wants to ease Semptimphelter's workload this season.
Homer echoes Powers' statement about how the two have pushed each other to improve daily. Semptimphelter may have taken Homer under his wing early on, but they have undoubtedly helped one another come along as goalies in Tempe.
"(Semptimphelter) has been an unbelievable mentor for the past year," Homer said. "The competition we have in practice really boosted me to where I am now. I’ve also helped him out along the way, so it’s just a really good dynamic.”
The Michigan product didn't see any time in his freshman season, as he sat behind former ASU goalkeeper Ben Kraws. Before becoming a Sun Devil, he played for the Chicago Steel in the USHL from 2021-2022. He also played for the US National U17 and U18 teams from 2019 to 2021.
The starting spot may be Semptimphelter's to lose. However, Powers and the rest of the team trust Homer’s ability to get the job done when his number is called.
"At the start of the year, TJ is the guy," Homer said. "Powers has full faith in me that whenever I need to get in the net, I’ll do my job, and I think the team is on the same page that there’s trust in whoever is in the net."
Homer logged 23 saves through regulation and overtime. The only flaw was a goal in the first period.
Powers stressed the importance of giving Semptimphelter rest this year and implementing Homer early on. Semptimphelter’s 36-game workload wasn’t ideal, and he hopes that Homer can help balance the workload through the long season.
"The whole plan was to get (Homer) at least a game in the first six to get him going so we can preserve TJ and manage him better than we did last year," Powers said. "Better than I did last year."
Powers also clarified that Homer would not necessarily see the ice every five or six games but whenever it was the right time to put him in. The coaching staff has tons of confidence in Homer to play at the same level as Semptimphelter, and that is sure to give him plenty of opportunity this year.
Look for Semptimphelter to remain the starting netminder this season for the Sun Devils. But fans should be happy to know that the backup can make plays and make a significant impact in his second year at Mullett Arena.
"(He’s) worked really hard and he earned it … we had a tremendous amount of confidence that he would go in and get the job done, and he did," Powers said. "Now he has that genuine inner confidence, which is great."
Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Walker Smith and Grace Copperthite.