For the Sun Devils, it’s not just the beginning of a new season it’s also the beginning of a new era as a Div. 1 program. ASU will play 25 of its 38 games vs. Div. 1 foes in 2015-16. The Sun Devils, who are eligible for the Div. 1 playoffs this season, will have a full Div. 1 schedule next season.
“The players have worked very hard over the last month getting ready and are very excited about getting on the ice and playing together," ASU Head Coach Greg Powers said. "They are ready to start the season and make this jump (to Div. 1), and they couldn’t be more excited to do it in a beautiful NHL building. We are very fortunate the Coyotes have allowed us to call their home our home for a while. We couldn’t be more thrilled."
ASU will enter the game having won 10 consecutive games vs. Arizona and 47 of the last 48. Still, the Sun Devils are not taking the Wildcats for granted.
“It doesn’t matter what the sport or what the level, any time ASU and U of A play each other it’s a big deal,” Powers said. “We respect the rivalry very much and we think it’s very appropriate to open up our Div. 1 era against our archrival.”
ASU player Jack Rowe said the Sun Devils are eager to compete at an NHL arena because it will send a message about the program.
"I think it just sets the tone for what we're about," Rowe said. "If we're going to go out there and be what we want to be, which is a top team, then this really just gives us the stage to make that a possibility."
The Coyotes are glad to partner with ASU and to bring events to the arena on nights when the NHL team isn’t playing.
"The natural home for hockey in the Valley, as far as we're concerned, is Gila River Arena," Coyotes Co-Owner, CEO and President Anthony LeBlanc said when the partnership with ASU was announced in August. "We're just thrilled ASU is going to play games in our facility. It makes a whole lot of sense for both entities. It's really all about just growing the game in Arizona."
ASU will be led by tri-captains Jordan Young, Liam Norris and Garrett Peterson. All three will wear the "C" on their sweater and there will be no alternate captains.
The Sun Devils are scheduled to practice at Gila River Arena on Friday and Saturday to get a feel for their new home away from home.
ASU also will play at Gila River Arena on Jan. 8 and Jan. 10 as part of the Desert Hockey Classic, and again on Feb. 28 against the U.S. National U-18 team.
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