It’s been almost nine months since the Arizona State hockey team has taken the ice for a game.
They will officially get the 2020-21 season started this weekend as they head to Ann Arbor, Michigan to face the Michigan Wolverines. The Sun Devils joined the Big 10 Conference this season, playing all their games on the road.
Head coach Greg Powers spoke about the upcoming season and the energy surrounding the team leading up to game time.
“It’s a different sense of enthusiasm,” Powers said. “The main message we’ve tried to drive home since we started is let’s just enjoy being able to play. Four months ago, we didn’t know, even two and a half, three months ago, we didn’t know what it would look like. After everything we’ve been through, and what everyone else has been through, I think the most important thing for us is to enjoy the experience.”
The last time the Sun Devils and Wolverines met was in February 2018 in Ann Arbor, where they dropped both games. Powers knows that this will be a different team, and that he is bringing along a different unit as well.
“[Michigan is] built much differently now, they’re probably more talented now with more high-end talent,” Powers said. “They’re going to be a handful and it’s going to be fun. We’re excited to play them. The biggest difference is going to be the atmosphere. We’ve played a lot of great places, that’s the best atmosphere in college hockey.”
In his second season wearing maroon and gold, senior forward James Sanchez will return back to Ann Arbor for the first time since transferring in 2018.
Sanchez returns as one of two top scorers on the team, with the other being senior forward Johnny Walker. He became the first Sun Devil to hit 40 points in a season.
“It’ll be cool, no fans so it will be a little different,” Sanchez said. “It will be cool to go play there again. I’m excited, but not thinking too much of it. It’s just another game, but it’ll be fun to go in there and get two wins.”
The team leaves for Michigan on Friday and will stay on the road for 22 days. This is in an effort to lessen the risk of contracting coronavirus traveling back and forth. It essentially creates a bubble for the team.
This season, the Sun Devils welcomed six freshmen and two transfers to Tempe. This year’s recruiting class ranked No. 2 in the country according to Neutralzone.net.
One of the transfers is Sean Dhooghe, a senior forward that played three seasons at the University of Wisconsin. During his junior campaign, he recorded five goals and nine assists in 28 games. He led the team with 15 goals during his sophomore season.
“He’s really good and I’m happy he’s here,” Powers said of Dhooghe. “He’s a tremendous hockey player and our fans are going to really like how he plays. He’s tenacious, a great kid, a great teammate. He’s got no off switch and he does it all. He’s going to be a great fit for us.”
Powers also announced that Johnny Walker and Jacob Wilson will be the team’s captains, with Jordan Sandhu and Dominic Garcia wearing the ‘A’ patch.
Puck drop will be Saturday at 1 p.m. MST and can be watched on Big Ten Network plus. Sunday’s game is slated for 5 p.m. MST on Big Ten Network.