ASU's Robert Levin stopping shots, setting records

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By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A lot can be accomplished in 233 minutes and 21 seconds. 

You can drive from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon. You can watch Raiders of the Lost Ark—twice. You could count to 14,000, or cook a 14-pound turkey.

What you can't do is score on Arizona State goalie Robert Levin. 

Last Friday night, the freshman goaltender shut out No. 7 Illinois, leading the second-ranked Sun Devils to an dominant 8-0 win. The shutout was Levin's third consecutive perfect effort, and his record improved to an unblemished 4-0-0 on the season. His three straight shutouts set an ASU record, and they already match the team's total from all of last season.

Levin's streak began with an easy win over Weber State on September 27th, then continued with an impressive 22-save effort to beat rival Arizona before Friday night's win. The only time any of the opposition's 65 shots on the season got by Levin was at a 12:21 mark of the first period of September 21st's game against San Diego State. 

In other words, it's been a really long time.

While in the midst of such an incredible accomplishment, Levin is not allowing it to distract him from his primary goal.

"I just look at it as trying to win games," Levin said of the streak. "As long as the team wins, that is all that really matters. It’s a nice little cherry on top. It’s fun, and I’ll try to keep it going as long as I can.”

Levin's immediate success comes as little surprise, as the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder was a highly regarded recruit. While he is aware of his quality play, he is quick to credit his teammates.

“I think I’ve played very well. The attack has been great in helping me, and (ASU head coach Greg) Powers has been supportive," Levin said. "They (ASU's defensemen) are keeping everything to the outside. I’m facing less than 25 shots a game. Anything in front, they clear after I stop the first shot. They’ve done a great job.”

A native of Illinois, Levin played two seasons in the Eastern Junior Hockey League for the South Shore Kings before coming to ASU, thanks to a convincing sales pitch from Powers.

“Around Christmas time, I emailed Coach Powers and talked with him," said Levin. "He sold the program. Winning a national championship is obviously a huge part of it. The school itself, it’s a great area, a good education, so I decided to come out here.”

Levin came to a Sun Devil team that already had an elite goaltender in place in senior Joe D'Elia, who went 26-5-0 last season. Rather than feel threatened by the arrival of a talented newcomer, D'Elia has been a great mentor to Levin.

"I learn from him every day. He’s a really good guy on and off the ice," said Levin. "I talk to him as much as I can, learn as much as I can from him. It’s a really good relationship we have going.”

The competition between Levin and D'Elia is pushing both players to become better goalies.

Through the first seven games of ASU's season, Levin has posted a 0.28 goals-against-average and a .985 save percentage, while D'Elia has equally impressive marks of 1.00 and .950. Levin's goals against and save percentage each rank second among qualified ACHA goalies, while D'Elia's goals against is seventh nationally.

“It’s great in practice. Every day, you have to go out there and play your best, because you know you know the other guy is going to," Levin said. "We feed off each other. Obviously, whoever is playing you want to win and play well. As long as the team wins, that’s all that matters.”

The success of both Levin and D'Elia also poses a quandary—albeit a positive one—for Powers. Can a team ultimately be successful playing two goalies evenly, or does one player need to be the clear starter?

Levin thinks the answer is in the victories.

“I think it depends on the team. Right now, it’s working," Levin said of the two-goalie situation. "We’re playing well, both of us, and whoever is in net we have a chance to win. That’s all that matters.”

Beyond D'Elia, Levin also has been helped by Powers. Before becoming ASU's head coach, Powers was a Sun Devil goalie that set nearly every program record for the position. 

“It’s great having a guy who understands goaltending," said Levin of Powers. "In high school, I had a coach who was a goalie as well, and it was great. He knows what’s going on, and he gives little pointers. He’s very understanding of the mental and physical aspects of the game.”

The road ahead for Levin and the Sun Devils is difficult. This weekend, the team travels to face No. 3 Oklahoma on Thursday before a two-game weekend series against No. 11 Central Oklahoma. These three games against fellow WCHL teams are ASU's toughest of the year, but Levin believes that he and his teammates are up to the task.

“They are really good teams. They brought in good recruiting classes," Levin said. "They’ve played some good opponents and played some games. I think they should be good quality games. But I think if we play like we have been playing, we’re going to be successful.”

Levin's streak will eventually come to an end, but this level of success so early in his career bodes very well for the program. While he hasn't set many goals for himself, the one he has made is the only one that counts.

“The goal is to win as many national championships as we can. We have the team. We have everything."