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ASU Hockey: Sun Devils await NCAA Tournament selection on Sunday

The team held an open practice prior to the Selection Show

Richard Martinez/House of Sparky

It’s officially the eve of college hockey’s NCAA Selection Show. It’s a show where No. 14 Arizona State (21-12) is labeled as a lock to make the tournament.

It has been three weeks since the Sun Devils last took the ice in a game. On Wednesday night while the ASU basketball team was playing in its First Four matchup in Dayton, the hockey team was at the practice home of the Arizona Coyotes.

The team took part in a public practice at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. Afterwards, players signed autographs and got involved with local Arizona hockey fans. They also spoke to the media to discuss the final week before their name is officially called on Selection Sunday.

Here are a few notes and tidbits that were discussed while at the open skate.

Giving Back to The Community

For local Arizona hockey players like ASU freshman forward Demetrios Koumontzis or sophomore forward Johnny Walker, playing at the Ice Den as a Division I college hockey player was somewhat surreal.

Both players had their families in attendance to watch practice at a venue where they watched their kids play youth hockey growing up. Koumontzis spoke to reporters after practice as a Jr. Coyotes team took the ice right after the Sun Devils.

“I grew up playing here. Those little kids (out on the ice), that was me 10 years ago,” Koumontzis said. “It’s awesome. It’s good to be back. It’s fun to showcase what we are right now to other kids and hopefully they continue to grow and want to be at a place like this (ASU).”

Walker Health and Not Making Hobey Baker Finalists

It’s no secret that Walker is a big part of the Sun Devils’ success this season. He led the Sun Devils in goals.

He was top-five in goals, goals per game, power play goals, and multi-goal games in the entire country, which is what makes it difficult to comprehend the recent Hobey Baker Finalists that were announced earlier this week. Walker did not make the cut and he was left out of the final round.

Nonetheless, what is more important than awards is what lies ahead in the postseason. Walker, who missed the final two games of the year due to a lower body injury, was skating on Wednesday. It was his second day back on the ice at practice, and he noted he will be 100 percent when the tournament kicks off.

“It’s my second day skating but it’s getting a lot better,” said Walker of his inury. “It has gotten better everyday so...By next Friday and Saturday, I will be fine.”

Daccord for Richter

Sun Devil junior netminder Joey Daccord was up for both the Hobey Baker Award, and the Mike Richter Award, which goes out to the nation’s best collegiate goaltender.

Daccord, who has started in every game and who is top-15 in save percentage, was named a semifinalist for the honor. The winner of the award will be announced at the NCAA Frozen Four in Buffalo. The finalist nominations are announced on March 28.

“It’s always fun to get recognition but I really think that it has been a huge product of how good we have been as a team this year,” said Daccord of his nomination. “I don’t think I am in the mix for that award if we don’t have 21 wins...That’s the biggest thing for myself is winning games.”

Scoreboard/Bracketology Watch

With a lot of time off, there has been plenty of postseason college hockey in conference tournaments around the country. This Saturday alone, the ECAC, NCHC, Big 10, WCHA, AHA, and Hockey East Championship games are all going on.

These games are of significance solely to determine where ASU gets seeded heading into the postseason. In the latest NCAA College Hockey Bracketology rankings, ASU was listed as a 3-seed in the East Regional in Providence, Rhode Island.

They would play a 2-seed in Quinnipiac. These rankings and travel destinations can change at any given moment pending other games but the prospect of ASU going back East to play in front of their alumni groups is an interesting thing to ponder.

Postseason Readiness

Hearing from multiple players on Wednesday, the anticipation level of playing in the tournament seemed to be high. Players seemed ready to go and they are ready for their hiatus to terminate.

During this three-week stretch, junior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk noted the team’s off-ice workouts have been tremendous and all the guys are getting healthier and stronger. Now it’s time to hit the green light on the tournament.

The NCAA Selection Show is this Sunday, March 24 at 4 p.m. local time on ESPNU.

“We have been saying it all year, we have been playing playoff hockey since October,” Walker said. “We don’t get that conference bid...We have to win 20 at the end of the year to give us a chance. We knew that.”