Kale Dolinski may go down as the greatest Arizona State State hockey player of all time. Last week he punctuated his career with his first picked up his hardware, ACHA Player of the Year award.
"On an individual level it feels great," Dolinski said. "No doubt it's a great accolade to put on the shelf, but that (national championship) ring is going to look even sweeter on my finger."
Dolinski played in 33 games in his senior season, lighting the lamp 19 times and tallying a career-high 52 assists for 71 points. The assists and points both led the ACHA.
In four tournament games, he scored a goal and recorded four assists. His best game was on Dec. 7 against the University of Arizona in Tucson, when he scored foul goals and dished out three assists.
Dolinski has been statistically the best Sun Devil since he arrived, leading the team in points in his three years in Tempe. He also led Minot State in points in 2010-11 before transferring to Arizona State. He won the ACHA Rookie of the Year that year.
Dolinski didn't seem to want to talk about himself, instead preferring to talk about the team. His coach however, was more than willing to talk about him.
"He is 1000 percent irreplaceable. There are no more Kale Dolinskis out there," coach Greg Powers said. "He just embodies perfection. You can't replace a kid like that, it just doesn't happen.
Dolinski's award completes a hat trick of sorts for the Sun Devils, as his Player of the Year award joins freshman goalie Robert Levin's Rookie of the Year and Powers' Coach of the Year.
Dolinski's Player of the Year honors may not be the last recognition he receives. Powers said there may be a few more coming his way.
"There is no doubt in my mind that he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer at ASU, and he's probably a lock to one day be in the ACHA Hall of Fame," Powers said.
Only 11 have been enshrined in the ACHA Hall of Fame, and Dolinski makes a strong case to be the 12th. His on-ice credentials speak for themselves. In his four-year career in the league, he notched 107 goals and 146 assists for 253 career points. His average season was nearly 27 goals and 37 assists for just over 63 points.
The second criteria is what a player does outside of the score sheet. The first line under "requirements for election" in the ACHA Hall of Fame rules says that "an individual must have contributed in a meaningful and positive way to the growth, betterment and success of the ACHA."
Dolinski was the best player on an Arizona State team that during his time there went from a good program to a fringe national title contender to a champion and perennial contender. His Arizona State team also became the first ACHA team to ever beat an NCAA Division I team.
Dolinski also took it to a new level in the highest-intensity games, especially those against rival Arizona. In 24 career games against the Wildcats, he registered an otherworldly 55 points.
A player must be two years removed from playing in order to be considered for the Hall of Fame, so Dolinski will be eligible for the ballot following the 2016 season.
Dolinski said that the Hall of Fame was not something he had even thought about.
"It's out of my hands, right?" Dolinski said. "I did all I could do, I left it all out on the ice. If I happen to make that board with all those reputable players, it would be an honor."
Whether or not Dolinski makes it into the Hall of Fame, the national championship game in which he played was the end of the line. He said he will not pursue professional opportunities overseas and that his career is over. He said he plans on going home to Canada and finding an off-ice career and hopes to start a family one day.
"Life's so much easier when you're playing hockey and going to school," Dolinski said. The real life- it sucks.
"The level I need to play at in order for me to be successful, I'm just not sure I want to pursue that anymore. ... I knew a long time ago I wasn't going to the NHL."