Exactly one year ago, Brett Prechel was uncertain if his hockey career was over.
"When it first happened I thought it was just a sprain and I'd be back on the ice in a couple days," Prechel said. "It wasn't until I got back to Arizona, had an MRI and talked with the doctor that I realized how serious of an injury it was and that I was done for the year."
Up to that point, the senior had played on the Division I team for three-plus years and he was motivated to concentrate on his recovery and take the proper steps during his physical therapy to make a return to the ice for his fourth year in a Sun Devil sweater.
Fast forward the clocks to this October and the senior is one of the biggest leaders on the team's blue line. Now pursuing a second major in the classroom, Prechel also had to make the switch back to defense because he knew that's where he would make a larger impact.
"One advantage I have on the blue line is knowing what it's like to play forward, so it's easy for me understand the game from a forward's perspective, while I'm taking care of my own game on defense. My game this season will be to keep the puck out of our net and put it in the opposing team's net, simple as that," Prechel said.
Simple enough for a skater who is looking to perfect his games on both ends of the rink. Even though he changes positions from year to year, Prechel understands the entirety of the game and he can anticipate plays. The Phoenix native took advantage of the summer to help him get back into shape and he shined during training camp and earned himself a spot on the roster for his fifth year.
"Yeah it was a productive offseason," Prechel said. "Obviously it could have been better if the injury had never occurred, but overall it was probably one of my best offseasons as a Sun Devil. Lots, and lots, of physical therapy, along with some weight training and skating to get the legs back."
The team will be counting on Prechel to be ready for a busy workload because he will log some ice time on the special team units and he can compliment the Devils with his vision, aggression and size.
Now his goal is to stay healthy so he can compete in every game during the six-month season because sitting on the bench is not an option.
"I can't help my teammates if I'm not available to contribute. It was really hard watching all those game last year," Prechel said.
It will be rare to see Prechel in a suit and tie this year because he proved he is not a quitter. The defenseman couldn't even skate until the beginning of June, which gave him only three full months to prepare on the ice before preseason team activities began.
He "can't even put into words how helpful," encouraging, and supportive his parents and therapist have been throughout the recovery process, and now he is eager to put in the long hours to the test against the ACHA.
Is his second full season with the team, Prechel set his collegiate highs with 13 goals and 13 assists. Based on the fast start he is having this year averaging more than one point per game, Prechel will try to turn his comeback story into one he will never forget.