ASU Sun Devils Hockey Team Seeded # 1

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ASU Sun Devils D1 Hockey Team Ranked # 1 In The ACHA National Tournament —

In order for there to be a history, history has to be made.

While the ASU Sun Devils hockey team has seemingly been creating program history non-stop for the last two seasons, its status of “not performing to its expectations” come National Tournament time is over-exaggerated.

ASU Logo4With the Lindenwood’s, Ohio’s and Illinois’ in the league, ASU (32-2) is but a mere rookie, per se, in the ACHA.

It was just five years ago that the ASU Sun Devils weren’t traveling to the National Tournament, let alone a top-25 program.

The Devils reached a No. 1 ranking for just the first time last year.

“That’s what’s funny listening to people talk about ASU and nationals is that we, quote unquote, ‘Have a history of not performing at nationals’,” Powers said.  “But that’s an uneducated statement. That’s a statement that people who don’t know what they’re talking about make.  ASU doesn’t have a history.”

This year’s No. 1 seed is the highest the Devils have ever been ranked entering the ACHA National Tournament, outdoing their No. 2 seed last season.

Before that, they were more of a surprise than an expected contender.

“We went in four years ago as an 11 seed and upset No. 6 Liberty in the first round,” Powers stated.  “Then the year after that we were an 8-seed and lost to No. 9 Oklahoma, 2-1, and that happens every year … then we lost to Oakland two years ago and they went on to the National Championship game and last year we improved and made it to the final four.”

Results would show ASU has faced the best team at the wrong time more so than not performing.

This year, Powers expects them to be that feared team.

“We’re looking to build on that and continue on that upward path and make it to that final game,” he said.  “If this team has 60 minutes to play for all the marbles, I feel sorry for whoever we’re going to play against.”

Without a doubt, ASU has been the most dominant and consistent team in the ACHA this season.

Their 12-1 record against top-seven teams proves that.

But like the past, the Devils know your seed doesn’t grant you anything come playoff time.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter,” senior forward Danny McAuliffe said. “… The goal is to win the championship, and you’re going to have to beat the best teams to do that. So it doesn’t really matter who we’re playing.”

Over the last three years, Powers and ASU has steadily climbed the rankings heading into the national tournament, going from No. 11 in 2010 to No. 8 in 2011 to No. 4 in 2012 and finally No.2 in 2013.

Now with the No. 1 seed, the reaction and attitude is more serious than ever, knowing that a ranking doesn’t hand you a championship.

“I think our draw proves it doesn’t matter what you go in as,” Powers said. “ … Whoever figures out a way to piece together four really good games is the team that’s going to win it all.”

Over the last five years, only two No. 1 seeds attained the championship, and both were by the same team in consecutive seasons — Lindenwood in 2009 and 2010.

During the Devils’ last three appearances, their seed certainly hasn’t helped them, as they have been upset each year.

“It’s full mental preparation,” McAuliffe said.  “It’s single elimination there so you got to give it everything, every single night.  You can’t let up at all … this is our last chance to do it for us eight seniors.”

Despite not being the No. 1 seed entering the tournament, there’s only one thing the last three ACHA national champions have in common: they all led the league in defense.

Entering their final two games this coming weekend against UA, ASU boasts the No. 1 scoring defense at 1.4 goals against per game.

They also have arguably two of the top netminders in the ACHA.

Freshman Robert Levin (17-1) leads the league in goals against average (1.07), save percentage (.957) and shutouts (6).

Senior Joe D’Elia (13-1) sits at fourth in GAA (1.79) and eighth in save percentage (.926) with two shutouts.

ASU is the only team in ACHA with two goaltenders exceeding 13 wins or more.

“Obviously we got the best defense in the league, we got the best offense in the league, so there’s no excuses why we shouldn’t take home that ring,” McAuliffe said.

The Devils enjoy the only thing they consider a bonus of being No. 1 — a bye in the first round — and await the winner of No. 16 Rhode Island and No. 17 Lindenwood.

Lindenwood, of course, is the team who upset No. 2 ASU last year in the semi-finals.

The Sun Devils first game will be on Friday, March 7 at 8p.m. ET.

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