You couldn’t write a script better than the one that unfolded at the Sun Devils men’s hockey team’s first-ever game at Mullett Arena on Friday.
In front of a sold-out crowd and a student section larger than the entire capacity of Oceanside Ice Arena, captain Josh Doan ushered in a new generation of ASU hockey.
“There’s hockey gods and they were here tonight because Josh Doan certainly deserves to have that benchmark in history in our program,” coach Greg Powers said.
That benchmark, of course, is the goal that Doan scored with 45 seconds left in the first period to give the Sun Devils a 1-0 lead over Colgate. The team went on to win in a 2-0 shutout.
Seriously, you can’t make this up.
The energy inside of Mullett Arena was already palpable, but the opening goal unlocked a level of noise and electricity that transcended the building’s capacity. In that moment, the Sun Devils made a statement: the threat of home-ice advantage is real.
ASU’s student section, the 942 Crew, led the charge. Donned in white, armed with posters and Halloween masks, the students at the west end of the arena stood for all three periods, led chants, jumped, shouted, jeered and cheered.
Colgate goaltender Carter Gylander learned the hard way that Mullett is a visiting netminder’s worst nightmare. After each whistle, Gylander would squirt his water bottle, to which the 942 Crew would chant “water waster!” They chanted it every single time, all game long.
In the corner, the marching band brought the college gameday atmosphere to life. Mascot Sparky roamed the concourse rocking a mullet. The drink rail was at capacity all night long. The Coors Light Club Chill Lounge, a private bar area for ticket holders in the section behind the benches, was never empty. The Devil’s Deck on the third level hosted 150 people with a full bar and buffet.
“There were stretches in the game when I think all of us, players, coaches, everybody, were kind of looking around going, ‘Wow, this is real, it actually happened,’” Powers said. “The crowd was unbelievable. Just engaged and loud and into it.”
The crowd helped propel the team to victory. Ryan O’Reilly scored the Sun Devils’ other goal and goaltender TJ Semptimphelter recorded his second career shutout and second in his past three games with 30 saves.
“It was unbelievable,” Semptimphelter said. “Just playing in that environment, the energy in the building was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”
The energy extended to the locker room before the game, where alumnus Dom Garcia returned to announce the starting lineup, an Arizona State hockey tradition.
It preceded the game by a week when Powers sat down with his team after a road trip to Minnesota and stressed the significance of what lay ahead.
The Sun Devils never let the pressure of the night get to them. The team’s slogan is “Be the Tradition” because the program is defining its identity day in and day out. The tradition of Mullett Arena began Friday night. It’s a new chapter in a book that saw this team begin as a club program, play in a small rink for years while trying to recruit at the NCAA level, and play an entire season on the road in the rugged Big Ten.
“I think you get an opportunity to score the first in this rink, it’s something special,” Doan said. “And that goes out to a lot of guys who played in this program before me.”
College students, children, their parents, their parents’ parents – everyone came together with a buzz and excitement that created an electric atmosphere that was once just a dream.
Now it’s a reality.
“Nights like tonight are something that I think every player that has played here since 1979 would joke about, like what if we got an on-campus arena?” Powers said. “What if all this happened, you know, how good we could be and how great we could become. And now it’s here.”
“What an atmosphere, what an experience. It’s one I know all of us will remember for the rest of our lives.”