For ASU hockey, it's a national championship or bust: Part IPosted: Updated:
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The stage was set. It couldn’t have been laid out any better.
Two months later, it is still hard to imagine it ending any worse.
Arizona State had reached the ACHA Final Four for the first time in program history. After top-seeded Adrian fell in the prior round, the Sun Devils were the highest remaining seed among the semifinalists, and ninth-seeded Lindenwood was all that stood between ASU and the national championship game.
Then it all came crashing down.
The Lions stunned the Sun Devils by opening up a 4-1 lead after the first period. It was a deficit from which ASU would not recover, ultimately ending their season with a 6-4 loss.
“I felt we should have won,” ASU head coach Greg Powers said about the loss. “I thought we outplayed them. We almost doubled them up in shots, but we dug ourselves a bit of a hole and they got hot for a couple of minutes.”
In that brief span, the greatest season in Sun Devil hockey history came to a painful end. Those Lindenwood goals closed a season that saw ASU reach heights never before seen in the desert. It was those successes that gave Powers a mixed feeling as the season’s final seconds ticked off the clock.
“It was bittersweet,” said Powers. “Immediately, Coach (Adam) Blossey and I looked at each other before we even stepped onto the ice, and it was like ‘Wow. What a great season.’”
By any subjective or objective measure, Powers is correct. The 2012-2013 season was a great season for his Sun Devils, filled with achievements that five years ago would have seemed folly to imagine. Despite the premature ending, he not only considers the year to be a triumph, but also views it as a springboard towards the future.
“It was a success. Most wins ever, we beat an NCAA Division I team, we went undefeated against U of A again, we made the Final Four,” said Powers. “It was a benchmark season. I think we’re at the point now where anything short of a championship will not be a success. We could probably get away with that for probably one more year. I think we had the best team in the country last year from a talent standpoint, bar none. But we went into Nationals a shorthanded from an injury standpoint, and that hurt us. We’ve just focused on getting deeper, so that when we do suffer some injuries, depth will never be an issue again.”
During his tenure, Powers has shown that he is not the type of leader who will dwell on a moment—positive or negative—preferring to keep his team’s focus and momentum moving forward. Even the greatest season the program has ever seen only got a 60 minute memorial.
“Probably an hour,” Powers said of the length of time from the Lindenwood loss before he shifted his focus towards the next season. “It never stops. It can’t ever stop. You can always get better. A lot of the kids you see commit and sign with us were already in the fold before last season ended. It’s always looking forward to the next thing. Not getting lost in the moment. The goal is to go undefeated and win a championship.”
With Powers behind the bench, that goal is more attainable than ever before.