As is often the case, the rich get richer. However, sometimes that newfound wealth is needed.
Arizona State breezed through the first half of the season, attaining the ACHA's No. 1 ranking on the strength of a 20-1 start. Yet over the last five games, the team has suffered three losses, and while it's not yet time to hit the panic button, there will be no relief from the team's remaining schedule. Of the team's final 15 games, 14 come against team's ranked in the ACHA's top 20.
With the ACHA's most talented roster, the Sun Devils very well could have weathered that storm. However, the great teams don't ever stand pat. They are always working hard to improve, and ASU was able to add a major new piece in late December.
Talented forward Kyle Bowen became the newest player for head coach Greg Powers' Sun Devils, and while Powers deserves much of the credit for assembling this roster, he may owe one of his player's a finders fee for his latest acquisition.
"A good buddy of mine, (current ASU forward) Faiz Khan, who I grew up with, his two older brothers attended ASU and played hockey here," said Bowen. "I was talking to Faiz about it, about ASU and asking questions, and that's when it started."
But before Bowen set foot in Tempe, Bowen's journey began in his hometown of Valencia, California, first as a four-year old roller hockey player before hitting the ice at age eight. Over the years, his skills were honed until he accompanied his parents on a trip to Sin City.
"My parents were in Vegas doing some visiting, and I went along with them," Bowen remembers. "I decided to skate in the Global Scouting Camp skate in Vegas just for some ice time. The coach of the Lloydminster Bobcats was there, and he contacted me and signed me."
So the SoCal star was off to Saskatchewan to play for the same Alberta Junior Hockey League team that produced NHL veterans Scott Hartnell and Wade Redden. Over three seasons there, Bowen tallied 33 goals and 75 points as his game was refined against top competition.
"I couldn't ask for much more than I got," Bowen says of his time in Canada. "The coach that I had up there, Brian Curran, was probably one of the best coaches I had growing up. He knew how to push his players to the limit without pushing them too far. The experience of moving to Canada and playing against players that obviously are going to the NHL, Division I or better was amazing."
Then came those fateful talks with Khan, which when added to a few other factors.proved to be the same combination has proven irresistible to so many other talented current Sun Devils in recent years.
"The weather. I'm from California, so I enjoy the hot weather. I heard the team was great and Coach Powers was obviously a huge plus. ASU was a big school, and to play hockey during the summer and being on a great team: How do you beat that?"
One thing that is indeed hard to beat is the talent pool Bowen joined, a fact not lost on him.
"I would say that this Arizona State team has twice as much skill as any team I've played on. The players on our team are, individually, ridiculous. The gel we all have together. We all work so hard together and we all get along so well. The chemistry on the team and the skill on the team is honestly the best I've been on."
No matter how talented a player may be, joining a new team in the middle of the season, especially one as successful as ASU, is a daunting challenge. But where some star players may be hoping to make a splash, Bowen is just looking to integrate himself into the Sun Devils' winning ways.
"Trying to get on the same page as the team, because the page they're on is working for us. We're ranked first in the nation. My goal is to fit in, to be a piece of the puzzle."
Bowen's game and skillset make for a perfect fit. The Sun Devils have no shortage of high scoring forwards, and while Bowen can certainly make an impact on the scoresheet, he's focusing on adding a different element into the lineup.
"I'm a defensive forward in the sense that I have the skill to score goals, but I'm more of a hanging back guy, more structured in our defensive zone and getting the puck out, and passing to players like Stephen Collins and Brian McGinty and let them show the magic."
Since coming to Tempe, Bowen has seen action in five games, and in last Friday's win over Williston State, he scored his first goal as a Sun Devil. His defensive prowess and worth ethic was also in fine form, as he made several outstanding hustle plays on the defensive end.
Leading his integration into the flow over the last few weeks has been Powers, a man that Bowen took an immediate liking to.
"Coach Powers is just a great guy. He's done so much for me, to get me from where I was to Arizona State University to be a part of this team. On and off the ice, he's a great guy and a great coach. Very knowledgeable, very approachable."
Even thought he joined the team in the midst of rough stretch, he is fully confident in ASU's status as top national title contenders.
"I think our team is going to succeed. Every team in every sport has their ups and downs, doesn't matter what level or how good you are. But I believe this second half of the season is where our team is going to get into gear and start pushing for the national championship. Playing hard as best as we can and every night we can."
Despite being the newest Sun Devil, Bowen knows exactly what his wants not only for the rest of this season or even his career, but also beyond.
"My goal for the rest of this season is to help this team succeed and to win a national title," he said. "For the rest of my years, it's to see the team pushed out there as much as possible, to get noticed as much as possible to hopefully, sometime after I'm gone, make the jump to NCAA."