Arizona State assistant coach Mike Field will be behind the bench coaching against his alma mater when the No. 12 Sun Devils host American International College this weekend for the team’s final two home games of the year.
Field, who played for the Yellow Jackets from 2004-2008, also went on to coach his former school from 2009-2012 while serving as an assistant and a recruiting coordinator for the institution out of Springfield, Massachusetts.
“There’s always mixed emotions,” said Field of playing his former school. “Aside from us (ASU), I am always checking their box scores the first thing after every game on Friday or Saturday...Other than this weekend, that is who I am rooting for every weekend.”
American International head coach Eric Lang is in his third season with the Yellow Jackets. When Field was playing for the school, Lang was one of his assistant coaches.
Now going up against one another, this weekend should be interesting for two schools who have not been accustomed to late season success. AIC is currently 17-12-1, which has them in first place in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. With four games remaining, the Yellow Jackets are in prime position to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
They are not in the USCHO top-20 but they have received 26 votes to be in the poll, which is currently tied with North Dakota for the most out of any other Division I program as of right now. For the first time in over two decades, the program has postseason aspirations.
Field compared the team's success to what has been going on at ASU, as two schools with very minimal success in the last few years have suddenly found themselves just games away from tournament bids.
“Honestly, I think that they are very similar to us in a lot of ways. They’ve really focused on recruiting good people,” said Field of AIC. “The rest of it kind of takes care of itself. That’s what we have tried to focus on, and that seems to be the biggest common denominator with successful teams and unsuccessful ones. The ones that are successful have really good kids, and they buy in and they are coachable.”
Before playing at AIC, Field played for a highly-coveted Shattuck St. Mary’s High School hockey program in Minnesota.
After his playing career concluded, and after his stint coaching at AIC, Field found himself coaching in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with the Dubuque Fighting Saints from 2012-2015.
ASU freshman defenseman Josh Maniscalco also spent time playing for Dubuque in the USHL, and Maniscalco played his prep hockey at Shattuck St. Mary’s as well. Playing in Dubuque, his head coach David Oliver used to be an assistant alongside Field. Maniscalco never played directly under the current Sun Devil assistant in the USHL, but the familiarity seemed to help things along the way when he arrived at ASU. It even helped in practice.
“It was good to kind of have that bridge and connection with me being a little more comfortable coming in (to ASU) as a freshman,” Maniscalco said. “It’s definitely something I was very lucky and fortunate to have. I went in to talk to Coach David about Coach Field, and now Field and I always laugh and crack jokes. We actually did a drill the other day that I used to do last year (in Dubuque) and I found out that my coach in Dubuque stole it from Fieldsy. It’s just funny.”
No matter where he has gone, Field seems to have a special knack for recruiting, and his stops along the way have helped that process. But where it all started is back at AIC.
With an undergraduate enrollment of under 1,500 students, Field was a jack of all traits when he spent time coaching at the school. It wasn’t all coaching. He spent time filling in doing other tasks such as helping out with equipment and helping set up music for pregame warm-ups.
It’s all been a humbling experience on his path to ASU.
“That was one of the biggest things there is you had to wear a lot of hats and you had worry about everything. Being here now (at ASU) where we have full-time people to do all the different jobs, you really appreciate how good you have it,” Field said. “Coming here, I am really appreciative of all the resources that we have.”
With a budding freshmen class that has registered 77 points so far this year, Field and ASU have hit a breakthrough in recruiting. The Sun Devil assistant has helped in a variety of ways with these tasks, scavenging through hockey hot beds to find up and coming talent.
“He’s a huge asset to us,” said ASU head coach Greg Powers of Field. “Mike has a knowledge of the player base, and his passion for recruiting and talent evaluation, his ability to do that is second to none. He’s a huge reason why we are having the success that we are having. We have an unbelievable staff and he is a big piece of it.”
Of course, winning is always the easiest thing to sell in recruiting, and ASU now has the numbers to help with that as well.
For Field, the trips to find new talent can seem daunting. He noted the most difficult thing is being away from his wife and his three-year old son. Field’s son recently celebrated his birthday earlier this week on Wednesday, and the Sun Devil coach was in town to celebrate.
However, Field said there are small moments in his family’s life that he misses from time-to-time.
Nonetheless, it’s part of the job description and he couldn’t be happier to be where he is at. From AIC to Dubuque, and over to Tempe, the ASU assistant has helped make strides for an upstart program, and things will come full circle when he faces his place of matriculation this weekend. Above all, it’s the game of hockey that has kept the former Yellow Jacket player and coach where he is happiest.
“I got a great job,” Field said. “The worst day coaching hockey or recruiting is the best day in any other job I could be doing.”