Today's matchup: Seed No. 5 ASU hockey gets NCAA status vs. Seed No. 12 ASU eSports puts Sun Devil Twitter in frenzy.
It wasn't long ago that ASU hockey was just another club sport. Competing in the relatively unknown American Collegiate Hockey Association, the Sun Devils failed to yield a strong team and thus, suffered the curse of irrelevance in the ASU athletic community.
That changed in 2010, when Greg Powers was hired as head coach of the team.
Powers, who played goalie on the club squad when he was a student at ASU, brought a new approach to the team and subsequently changed its culture. Rather than solely relying on players from the Southwest, Powers made recruiting trips to Canada, and pulled players down to Tempe from north of the border.
Fast forward a couple of years, and half of the team was composed of Canadian players that Powers convinced to not just play club hockey at ASU, but to pay dues for it. Some of them even gave up D1 opportunities to play for Powers in Tempe.
Under the direction of Powers and its infusion of NCAA-quality talent, the Sun Devils put together a historic 2013-14 season, going 34-2 and earning the top seed in the ACHA national championship tournament. Arizona State dismantled its opponents en route to a national championship, bringing unprecedented attention from the ASU community that the team hadn't previously enjoyed.
The momentum from their national title, something even ASU's NCAA-sanctioned teams haven't accomplished since the softball team's championship in 2011, brought the Sun Devil hockey team a large fanbase headed into the 2014-15 season.
House of Sparky editor emeritus Justin Emerson conducted an interview with ASU athletic director Ray Anderson, and posed the seemingly-naive question of whether the club team could make the jump to being NCAA-sponsored. Anderson was open to the idea, and shortly after Emerson's article went live he got a call from the father of a former ASU club hockey player, pledging to make the transition to NCAA a reality.
ASU didn't finish its final season in the ACHA at the top of the club team heap, getting knocked out in the postseason to bring its tenure in the league to end, but the Sun Devils now embark on a new journey.
Arizona State will play a hybrid schedule in 2015-16, filling its schedule with a mix of D1 and ACHA teams. By 2016 the Sun Devils will match up against solely D1 teams, and ASU will be a full-fledged NCAA hockey team complete with a to-be-determined conference membership in by the 2017 season.
The reason that it will take two years to join a conference is similar to why ASU's immersion into NCAA competition is unique. Sitting nearly 600 miles from the closest D1 school, ASU brings a big-school stick to a D1 hockey party dominated by small universities. The last school with an undergraduate enrollment under 20,000 to take home the NCAA hockey championship was Michigan State in 2007. Since then, the trophy has been hoisted by the likes of Yale, Providence and Minnesota-Duloth among others.
With a completely different climate than nearly every other D1 team, as well as having the big-school distinction that many top hockey teams don't, the Sun Devils enter the NCAA hockey scene with built-in recruiting advantages.
- Shane Theodore
#SunDevilMoments Seed 12: ASU eSports team puts Sun Devil Twitter in frenzy
If you were logged on to Twitter the evening of April 26, chances are you weren't using it to follow the Rockets-Mavericks NBA playoff game that night.
Instead, you were tuned into ESPN2 with us. Watching grown men play video games against each other.
That night, the Arizona State club eSports team competed in a best-of-five championship round of the "Heroes of the Dorm" college tournament against UC Berkeley. Despite ASUMelkhor leading a valiant charge and the savvy use of dragons from the "Dream Team", the Golden Bears still took home the title in the decisive Game 5.
The game celebrated the upcoming release of the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game Heroes of the Storm, and the winning team of the tournament took home $75,000 in scholarship money.
To this day, no one knows why eSports was such a fascinating phenomenon during that quiet Sunday night. All Sun Devils knew was it was ASU competing on ESPN2, so it was everyone's obligation to cheer them on.
Guys I have no idea what's going on but I'm watching ESPN2 and all I want to do is throw up the fork and praise Sparky #StormTheDorm— Justin Emerson (@J15Emerson) April 27, 2015
It took awhile for the bandwagon to build up from the start of the series. Even we didn't know what game we were watching at the time:
IMPORTANT: ASU is playing Cal in Dungeons and Dragons on ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/H3mFCRA4DP— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) April 27, 2015
Even the jocks joined in on the fun. Everyone, please give a warm welcome to ASU football quarterbacks Mike Bercovici and Manny Wilkins:
I have no idea what I'm watching on ESPN2 right now... But GO DEVILS!! #HeroesOfTheDorm— Michael Bercovici (@MikeBerco) April 27, 2015
AsuMelkor for HEISMAN!!!— 5⃣ (@Manny_Wilkins5) April 27, 2015
And of course, the Sports Call of 2015 (so far) was born:
Of course, no big Arizona State athletic event is finals without SunDevilSource.com's final score tweet:
Final: Cal 3 ASU 2— SunDevilSource.com (@SunDevilSource) April 27, 2015
Despite Cal beating Arizona State in eSports, the Golden Bears wouldn't be let off easily. Every ASU-Cal in the immediate future seemed to bear a bit more of a significance.
I, Raynor, will attempt to avenge my ASU brothers when we embark upon our journey to Cal next weekend. Long live Heroes Of The Storm!— Tracy Smith (@ASUSkip) April 27, 2015
Nov. 28, 2015. Berkeley, Calif.— Sun Devil Football (@FootballASU) April 27, 2015
We know this isn't exactly a program-defining moment in athletics, but this moment gave many ASU fans a fun reason to bleed maroon-and-gold. It was a nice relief to this long football offseason, and should always be remembered of one of ASU Twitter's most epic moments.
We saw this moment as the No. 12 moment of the ASU athletic season. It will be up the readers, beginning next week, to see how far this moment goes in our bracket.
Side poll: Which was the greater video game moment: "Going HAM on this core!" or "Leeroy Jenkins?"