It was a historic Sunday afternoon for the ASU men’s hockey program. In just their third season at the Division I level, the Sun Devils were selected for their first-ever NCAA Tournament.
It is the first time since 1992 that an independent program has made the postseason. ASU is the 3-seed in the Midwest Region. They will travel to Allentown, Pennsylvania to take on a 2-seed in Quinnipiac on Saturday, March 30 at the PPL Center.
The other seeds in the bracket are No. 4 Bowling Green and No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth. Minnesota-Duluth is last year’s defending National Champions.
The Sun Devils weren’t the final team in, but they were the final team announced in Sunday’s Selection Show. For a team that has prided itself on being an upstart group with an underdog mentality, it seemed fitting.
“It was kind of poetic justice there to be the last team announced,” head coach Greg Powers said. “We were confident we were going to get in and it’s not as subjective as college basketball. If you are where you need to be in the PairWise, you are in. We love where we are going and we didn't really care where we went or who we played. We are excited to showcase our program on the highest stage.”
It was a full team effort to ascend to this point, but three of the Sun Devils’ most pivotal players throughout the year were sophomore forward Johnny Walker and junior goaltender Joey Daccord. Daccord started every game in goal and was among the nation’s leaders in shutouts. He was the team’s backbone on the back end.
Up front, Walker led the team in points and was top-five in the country in goals, despite missing three games.
On the blue line, junior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk has been one of the team’s veteran leaders. He was second on the team in points and he was a +25 on the ice. All three players reflected on their journeys.
“The first time it really hit me ( that ASU was going to make the tourney) was right there when we were watching the selection show,” Daccord said. “I honestly got a little emotional. It was truly an extremely special moment for myself, my family, the program, the school and everyone that has been apart of it.”
It’s official. For the first time since 1992, an independent program is going to the NCAA Tournament.— Andrew Bell (@AndrewBell7) March 24, 2019
In their third year at the Division 1 level, @SunDevilHockey is going to the postseason. pic.twitter.com/U8gdzYBedI
Walker added his perspective as well.
“Everyone here, kind of their whole life, has been told ‘No’,” Walker said. “We have worked hard enough to where people can’t really tell us no anymore. We finally got a bid to the national tournament. That’s a goal that we set at the start of the year and now we are going to go to Allentown and make some noise.”
Above all, the moment seemed surreal from player-to-player. For a program who has sustained a lot of growing pains the last few years, Sunday was a shining moment as a college team in the most unlikely of places made history.
“A lot of people don’t respect us as a program. I don't don’t quite know why yet. We have proven something that no one else has really proven before,” Pasichnuk said. “It’s our third full year in Division I and we are going to the tournament.”