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ASU Hockey: Sun Devil Notebook

Keeping busy

Richard Martinez/House of Sparky

With just over a week until the NCAA Selection show, No. 13 Arizona State is sitting in a good position to make college hockey’s big dance.

Currently in week two of not playing any games, the Sun Devils have been scoreboard watching while waiting for their postseason fate.

According to the most recent College Hockey News Pairwise Matrix, the team holds a 96 percent chance to make the tourney as an at-large bid.

Things can still change, but for now, ASU is in a steady position to make the 16-team field. Despite not playing any games, too, the Sun Devils have been making a lot of noise over the past week.

The program announced that it would be taking part in a major holiday tournament next December, they announced an upcoming exhibition game, and they officially announced new members of the 2020-21 recruiting class.

Here is more to know about all of the happenings.

2020 Recruiting Class

Five days ago, ASU announced its next platoon of incoming Sun Devils for 2020. The group is ranked as the nation’s fifth-ranked recruiting class, and it boasts two NHL draft picks.

Among the six players that were announced, there were four forwards, one defenseman, and one goaltender.

“This is an exciting and new level of draft class for us, and one that we’ve been very excited about bringing in,” said head coach Greg Powers in a release from Sun Devil Athletics. “We have a great balance of two-way players, an elite goaltender and raw talent top to bottom. They’ll be another freshmen class that comes in and makes an immediate impact.”

The forwards consist of Ryan O’Reilly, Michael Mancinelli, Matthew Kopperud, and Benji Eckerle.

O’Reilly and Mancinelli were both formerly committed to schools in the NCHC, as O’Reilly had the original intent to attend Denver University while Mancinelli had thoughts on attending North Dakota.

Both players rerouted to Tempe, however, and have officially put pen to paper for the 2020-21 season. O’Reilly is also a draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings and was selected 98th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.

As for Kopperud and Eckerle, Kopperud hails from a familiar junior program to ASU, as he played the 2019-20 season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League.

That same team has produced current Sun Devils such as Josh Maniscalco, Jacob Semik, Willie Knierim, and James Sanchez.

Eckerle hails from Northville, Mich. and has played juniors for the Tri-City Storm the past couple of seasons.

As for the team’s incoming defenseman, Carson Kosobud is similar to current ASU forward Demetrios Koumontzis, transitioning from Arizona to Minnesota to play his high school hockey. He played in Moorhead, Minnesota and has drawn rave reviews for his skating ability.

And lastly, between the pipes, the Sun Devils’ other NHL draft pick comes in the form of goaltender Cole Brady, who was a 2019 fifth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils. At 6-foot-5, 175 pounds, he will be an imposing presence in the crease.

Holiday Tournament in Milwaukee

Last week, plans were set forth to feature ASU in a premiere college hockey holiday tournament as the team will depart from the warm climates of Tempe to head for Milwaukee in December and showcase themselves in the Holiday Face-off College Hockey Tournament on Dec. 28-29.

Similar to the set up of the Desert Hockey Classic in Glendale in recent years, ASU will be in a four-team field that includes Clarkson, Wisconsin, and Connecticut.

The Sun Devils played both Wisconsin and Clarkson this season on the road, and they split with the Golden Knights but were swept by the Badgers to end the regular season.

The tournament is taking place at the Fiserv Forum, which is normally the home venue for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.

“We are very excited to get back to the great State of Wisconsin and play in this event at Fiserv Forum,” said Powers in a release from the Holiday Face-off. “The field of teams is fantastic and we are honored to be a part of it.”

Alumni Game

With a month lay-off last season before its first-ever postseason game, ASU had to scrape off some rust before facing Quinnipiac in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

This time around, to keep at game level, ASU is having a special exhibition just prior to Selection Sunday.

The program is having an alumni game against former players on March 21 at 5 p.m. at Oceanside Ice Arena - the night prior to the selection show.

“After experiencing the layoff between the regular season and postseason last year at this time, I immediately began to prepare a competitive option during the break if we made the postseason this year,” said Powers in a release. “All season, I’ve communicated with some of our most talented alumni to return and put on a competitive match-up to prepare our team for the postseason within NCAA restrictions. Make no mistake about it, this game is designed to prepare our team for the NCAA Tournament and we hope fans will help make it as much of a game-like atmosphere as possible.”

Alums such as Robbie Baillargeon, Dylan Hollman, Anthony Croston, and members of ASU’s 2014 ACHA National Title team will be playing in the scrimmage.

And with an interesting twist, ASU volunteer goaltending coach and former NHL netminder Eddie Lack will be starting between the pipes for the alumni just to add some extra flare to the matchup.

Tickets are currently available to the public, and the NCAA Selection Show is on Sunday, March 22 at 4 p.m. local time on ESPNU.